JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald says prison allows criminals to "address the causes of their offending behaviour".
Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at the launch of a set of stamps marking the work of the prison service.
The minister said the collection was worthy recognition of the work done by the 3,400 staff of the prison service, who manage an average of 4,000 prisoners a day at 14 prisons and detention centres.
"While prison is meant to be punitive through the deprivation of liberty, more importantly it provides an opportunity for a person who may have been marginalised by society, missed out on education, or caught in a spiral of addition and criminal activity to address the causes of their offending behaviour.
"It is the responsibility of the Irish Prison Service, its staff, its partners, both statutory and non-statutory, to provide those opportunities through the provision of services such as education, work training, healthcare services and drug treatment among others," she said.
Irish Prison Service director general Michael Donnellan said the stamps honour every member of staff of the service.