‘Living Inside: Six Voices From the History of Irish Prison Reform’ A new exhibition at Kilmainham Gaol Museum

7 February 19

Living Inside: Six Voices From the History of Irish Prison Reform’ is a new exhibition which opens in Kilmainham Gaol Museum on 9th February 2019. Based on historical research of leading UCD academics, and using evocative images by photojournalist Derek Speirs, and rarely seen objects from Mountjoy Prison Museum, the exhibition tells the story of six ordinary people whose lives were entangled in campaigns for prison reform in Ireland since the 1960s.

Since then the Irish prison estate has expanded significantly. The growth of the prison population prompted greater state investment and required the employment of more and more personnel. Since 1960 the prison population has risen from 461 people in 4 prisons to 4,000 in Ireland’s 12 prisons, with over 3,000 staff including 220 teachers and just under 2,000 prison officers.

Conditions in prisons have also changed a lot since the 1960s and in recent years there has been a massive modernisation programme. These changes are part of a long history of debate and intervention concerning prisoners’ right to health that reaches back to penal reformer John Howard (1726-1790), poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and continues today.

This exhibition focuses on Ireland’s recent history of prison reform and the events that brought about these changes. It is told through the experiences of people whose daily lives were spent inside Irish prisons. In Living Inside we meet three prisoners, an activist, a prison officer and a prison teacher, all of whom have parts in the history of reforming the Irish prison system. In doing so, we encounter the pain and protest, the institutions and the ideas, and the change and continuity.

Living Inside offers multiple perspectives from people who have lived and worked in Irish prisons, inviting visitors to reflect on individual experiences across history and on the human right to health.


For further information and high res images, please contact Catherine Cox - catherine.cox@ucd.ie - School of History University College Dublin.

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Notes for editors

  • The exhibition runs at Kilmainham Gaol Museum until Sunday, May 19th 2019 and admission is free. Booking in advance is essential at www.kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie
  • Content warning: This exhibition deals with topics that some people might find distressing including self-harm, drug abuse, physical restraint, and violence
  • Curatorial Team: Dr. Oisín Wall, Associate Professor Catherine Cox and Dr Sinead McCann
  • Living Inside is part of a Wellcome Trust funded five-year project ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850 - 2000’ led by Catherine Cox, School of History, University College Dublin. See www.histprisonhealth.com. It is a flagship research project based at the School of History, UCD which examines the history of healthcare in Irish prisons and prisoners’ rights to health
  • Kilmainham Gaol is located at Inchicore Road, Dublin 8 and is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm (last admission 5pm), seven days a week.