Peer Mediation in Prisons Programme

The first Peer Mediation programme in Prisons was run in Castlerea Prison in the autumn of 2016 and involved 21 participants, 11 of whom were from the Traveller community. This was reflective of the fact that more than half of the prison population in Castlerea Prison would identify as
being Travellers, the initial 6-week programme was run for one day a week over 6 weeks, and included the following:

  • Listening & communication exercises/circle work
  • Exploring the nature of conflict and its effects and consequences
  • Exploring personal responses to conflict/individual conflict styles/conflict triggers
  • Session on Irish Traveller culture, Aswell as Traveller-related conflict, and how it is distinct from other types of conflicts.
  • Exercises to demonstrate how conflict escalates & begin to look at de-escalation techniques.
  • Bring participants through the 5 Step Peer Mediation Programme and introduce the basic concepts of mediation including: the role of the mediator/ confidentiality issues/ impartiality/listening/reflecting back/ using open questions/moving from positions to interests/re-framing/reaching agreement.
  • Practice using these concepts through role-plays and group work!

Following an evaluation of this initiative and considering the positive response from stakeholders and participants, it was decided to continue the initiative in Castlerea Prison and develop a follow-on programme for participants who had completed the first 6-week module.

With that in mind Part 2 of the Peer Mediation Programme was developed and involved a focus on practical mediation and conflict coaching skills with a view to developing a pool of prisoners who would be able to provide effective conflict resolution interventions amongst their peers in the prison setting. This was also run as a 6-week module and at the end of which Mediators’ Institute of Ireland (MII) accredited external mediator would independently assess the participants on their mediation skills.

Due to the ongoing success and consistent prisoner engagement of the original Castlerea Prison peer mediation programme several of the
prisoners who successfully completed both Parts 1 and Parts 2 of the programme requested the opportunity to gain fully accredited status as
mediators with the Mediators Institute of Ireland (MII) Accredited Programme.

In collaboration with the Kennedy Institute in Maynooth University, Castlerea Prison management and staff, and the ETB it was agreed that the
prisoners would be offered a 12-week training programme which would enable them to become fully qualified mediators upon successful
completion and assessment.

This programme was run over 2 half-days per week between October 2019 and December 2019. One half day was spent learning the in-depth
theories and processes involved in mediation and the other half day was entirely devoted to role play practice and skills development exercises. The programme was led by TMS staff and a lecturer from the Kennedy Institute, supported by staff from Castlerea Prison’s educational department.

The 12-week programme was attended by 9 prisoners (4 of whom were Travellers) and was successfully completed and passed by 8.
These 8 prisoners received full accreditation as mediators with the MII.

This was the first time in Ireland that any prisoners had attained this level of accredited training and certification in mediation practice and was a remarkable outcome for all involved, for all the prisoners it also represented the highest level of educational qualification that they had achieved in their lives to date.

Since the programmes succesful start with Castlerea Prsion, TMS has rolled out the Peer Mediation in Prisons programme in a further 4 prisions i.e. Cork Prison, Limerick Prison, Loughan House Prison & Portlaoise Prison as well as training in the Mountjoy Female Prison in the Docha’s Centre in Dublin.

An Overview of the TMS Peer Mediation in Prisons Initiative May 2020
2019 Evaluation of the Peer Mediation Programme in Castlerea Prison
MTCMI Peer Mediation Pilot Initiative Book v4