- 12 June 2017
- Posted in: Education, Planning & Development
Earlier this month The Rt Hon David Lidington MP took up the job of Justice Secretary responsible for the tens of thousands of men and women in our prisons. The aftershocks from the General Election will leave MPs and Ministers wrestling with major political decisions facing the country. But the new Justice Secretary cannot afford to be distracted. The issues he faces are urgent and hugely important. The reports of individual inspectors as well as his own department’s statistics chronicling dismal increases in violence, self harm and deaths can have left him in no doubt of the precarious state of the country’s prisons. And short-staffed establishments locking up human beings for hours on end are doing very little to return those people to our towns and cities as successful citizens, who can support their families and the community around them. The truth is that a prison sentence reinforces a person’s identity as a criminal and loses homes, jobs and family contacts - some of the elements that will be vital to a law-abiding life on release.
But it is possible to help people in prison to see a way out of the cycle of limited opportunities. Every week prisoners write to us at Prisoners’ Education Trust to thank us for the hope that education has given them.
They tell us it has helped them cope with their lives in custody; has made their families proud, and is building the confidence they need to make a constructive life after release. And we have more than isolated examples: statisticians from the Ministry of Justice have shown that prisoners who have applied and been helped by the education we offer have gone on to reoffend over a quarter less than a matched control group of prisoners.
There is a lot to be done to bring our prisons to a state in which they can support their inmates to achieve more with their lives. But education is one area in which there is a clear path forward, offering dramatic results.
Just over a year ago, Dame Sally Coates published a major review of how prison education could be make more effective, through flexibility for Governors to meet prisoner needs more effectively, through offering a broader range of opportunities with genuine educational progression and through using secure IT to enhance opportunities. The new Justice Secretary would do well to grasp those opportunities with both hands and Prisoners’ Education Trust for one, stands ready to help.
Because, as one woman wrote to us: “Doing education in prison has been life changing. It has given me hope for the future.”
Article by Rod Clark, Chief Executive of Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET)
To hear more about and the work Prisoners’ Education Trust is doing, join us at Prison Safety and Reform: Restoring Stability, Transforming Lives on June 27th at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester .