On Thursday 21st November, postgraduate students studying on the LLM/MA in Human Rights in Criminal Justice masters programme gained a real-world insight into an operational prison during a field trip to Limerick Prison organised by Course Director, Dr Ger Coffey. Students experienced the prison environment and gained valuable insights into the workings of an operational prison. This served to remove discussion in academic seminars from the abstract and to facilitate students’ understanding of the practicalities associated with criminal justice and sentencing processes. The field trip was a useful way of stimulating critical thinking and active learning that academic seminars could not accomplish on the same level.
Prison staff in charge of organising training and educational activities for prisoners, as well as those with security and management responsibilities, met with the students to discuss their roles. This opportunity to meet with prison officers and listen to prisoner experiences facilitated students to enhance their knowledge and understanding of criminal justice and sentencing issues and to bring their academic knowledge to life.
The interactive field trip also served to debunk myths and stereotypes of prison life and offenders. This was pivotal to enhancing students’ knowledge and understanding. The experiential learning activity for students also facilitated affective learning and to experience how the interactive visit to Limerick Prison impacted on students’ personal ambivalence toward offenders, criminal justice policies and practice. This in turn served to bridge the pedagogical gap between academic knowledge and practical issues in the criminal justice and sentencing processes.