How can prisoners improve if the internal educational system fails them?

 Education in prisons must be overhauled in order to tackle a “persistent failure to reduce re-offending”, the justice secretary is to say. Michael Gove stressed in a speech that helping prisoners become literate and numerate makes them “employable”.

Whilst the Prison Governors Association welcomed the proposals, as usally after making no practical contribution to change in terms of prisons education, raised concerns about how changes would work in practice.

Earlier this week, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said the government’s “rehabilitation revolution”, launched five years ago at the outset of the coalition, had not even started.

He said in his last annual report that prisons were in their worst state for a decade and some jails were “places of violence, squalor and idleness”.

Prison education, work and re-offending

  • £145m spent every year in England and Wales on prison education
  • 95,300 offenders over 18 were in education in 2013/14
  • Almost half of adult prisoners re-offend within one year of their release
  • 60% re-offend if they serve sentences of less than a year
  • Two-thirds of offenders under 18 re-offend within twelve months of release

In his first speech on the issue since being appointed as justice secretary in May, Mr Gove is expected to say that society is collectively to blame for the failure to “redeem and rehabilitate” offenders, and he will call for an end to the “idleness and futility” of prison life.

The justice secretary says he wants to look at “earned release” for offenders who are committed to education and gain qualifications that are respected by employers.

prisons reoffending and education by diane shaweIf prisons moved to such a system, it would be a major change from the current policy under which most prisoners are automatically released on licence at the halfway point of their sentence.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The challenge now is to translate this marked new reflective tone set by the Justice Secretary into sensible policy and to create a just, humane and effective penal system.”

Educating prisoners can turn them into “contributors to society”

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending,” Mr Gove is expected to say at the event in London, hosted by the Prisoner Learning Alliance.

“In prisons there is a – literally – captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending.

“Ensuring those offenders become literate and numerate makes them employable and thus contributors to society, not a problem for our communities.

I am concerned that once again emphasis is placed on numeracy and literacy which failed most of them at school and not enough critical thinking is placed on providing life skills and soft skills.

Gove states “The failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible. I fear the reason for that is, as things stand, we do not have the right incentives for prisoners to learn or for prison staff to prioritise education. And that’s got to change.”

Mr Gove is also expected to use the speech to propose giving governors more control and rewarding them if offenders do well.

He will say that one of the “biggest brakes on progress” in all prisons is the “lack of operational autonomy and genuine independence enjoyed by governors” – who are often set very tight criteria on how prison life should be managed.

“Yet we know from other public services – from the success of foundation hospitals and academy schools – that operational freedom for good professionals drives innovation and improvement. So we should explore how to give governors greater freedom – and one of the areas ripest for innovation must be prison education.”

It is about time we had some proper joined up thinking, Gove as usual like to deal with the problem straight on whilst some around him loves to keep the mother of all restriction and red tap rolling even when they can see there is no progress.


Source:  17th June 2015