News and Views

Personal ‘maps’ of life after prison in Cork city created

21 Dec 2022
UCC Sociology and Criminology and Cork Alliance CLEAN SLATE team with UCC President Prof. John O’Halloran at Cork City Lifelong Learning Award Ceremony

Three men who experienced prison life, have created ‘life after prison maps' of Cork that reveal a personal picture of homelessness in the city.

The maps are part of a University College Cork (UCC) research entitled Clean Slate Cork that engages men with past criminal convictions as peer-to-peer researchers to document and analyse their challenges of navigating social reintegration with a criminal record. The project works in partnership with Cork Alliance Centre, a voluntary sector organisation based in Cork City who support people to make a fresh start after prison.  

Three peer researchers with criminal justice experience, Paul O’Rourke, Tony Kenny and Keith Purcell, conducted research interviews with other men about their experiences of life after prison, focusing also on the challenges and opportunities of accessing education and employment after prison.

They created biographical walking maps on the topic of ‘life after prison’ in Cork City. The maps were designed in collaboration with UCC Geography cartographer Mike Murphy and the titles of the biographical walking maps included: ‘homelessness after prison’; ‘finding your way in life’ and ‘places of safety. 

11 stops across a map of Cork city chart a walk of hopelessness and happiness and provide a very personal experience of homelessness.  “I found going to the hostel after prison soul destroying” states Stop 1 at St Vincent’s Hostel in Cork city “Sending a person there with addiction issues after prison, it’s like setting them up to fail.”  Across the city the map charts the experience of life after prison and homelessness in Cork. The care of charity services is contrasted with the bleak experiences of both women and men on the streets of the city. 

The peer researchers’ motivation to participate in the project was in their own words to ‘..use this experience to raise awareness that people with difficult pasts can create great futures’ and to ‘…raise awareness for men and women coming out of prison in future to not be put into homeless accommodation, but rather into safe places where they can prosper in a healthy environment’. 

Professor Chris Williams, Head of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences at UCC said: ‘I congratulate the CLEAN SLATE team on their well-deserved award. The research team has developed an innovative and impactful project that is communicated movingly through some wonderful cartography. This is research that makes a difference in the present and hopefully will improve the lives of persons leaving prison in our city.’

The CLEAN SLATE Cork project recently won a 2022 Cork City Council Lifelong Learning Award in the Category ‘Adult education in the community’. The CLEAN SLATE project, funded by under the New Foundations Scheme by the Irish Research Council, was initiated by Dr. Katharina Swirak, Department of Sociology and Criminology and Sheila Connolly, CEO of  Cork Alliance. The project was supported by research assistant Barbara O’Driscoll and psychotherapist Anna Dudek.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF