Taxpayer foots bill for inmates to study Shakespeare, economics and 'crime and justice' in prison
The taxpayer is funding prison inmates to better understand Einstein's general theory of relativity, as well as crime and justice, and 20th century art.
The Open University's 'The Relativistic Universe', 'Crime and Justice' and 'Art of the 20th Century' are just three of 101 Open University courses Irish prisoners are taking in the current academic year and studied in the 2015/16 academic year.
Over the past four years, the taxpayer has spent more than €460,000 on funding Open University courses for inmates across the prison system.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) has confirmed that last year it spent €117,264 on such courses.
The spend in 2016 follows an outlay of about €350,000 in the previous three years.
Each course costs around €2,000 on average every year to fund and in 2015, the amount paid in fees by the IPS for Open University courses totalled £88,942 (€105,036).
The 2015 pay-out was down on what was paid out by the IPS in Open University fees in 2014 and 2013.
In 2014, the IPS paid out €120,000 on Open University courses and that followed €141,000 paid out in 2013.
In total over the past four years, the IPS has spent €4.7m on its education programme.
The education programme includes inmates following this year's Leaving Cert English syllabus where they are currently studying Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and Sean O'Casey's 'The Plough and the Stars'.
Of those taking Open University courses, those sitting 'The Relativistic Universe' are learning about the universe's structure and evolution, its active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts and the theoretical basis for modern cosmology.
The course is for those students who are interested in using quantitative physical methods to understand relativistic and high-energy processes in the universe, and already have a good background in maths, physics and astronomy.
The inmates taking the 'Crime and Justice' course explore crime and justice in both global and local contexts "and in particular, the way that crime and justice are being continually redefined by global economic, social and political change".
The inmates seeking to understand the latest economic indicators and jargon are studying the 'Running the Economy' Open University course, while others with an eye on sunnier climes on their release are studying 'A buen puerto - Advanced Spanish'.
Sports-related courses are popular, with 14 inmates studying a variety of such courses, including 'Introduction to Sports, Fitness and Management' along with 'Sport and Conditioning Science in Practice'.
And some of the more business-orientated prisoners are studying 'An Introduction to Business Studies'.