08 January 2021
Investment in prison education should have a transformational effect on the ability of an individual to succeed in employment and therefore many other aspects of their life on release. Re-offending rates would be reduced and communities strengthened.
However, currently prison education varies hugely in both quality and type of opportunity across the estate. This is impacted by a multitude of factors –the disconnect between a sentencing plan and education plan, the varying quality of the buildings, and the impact this has on opportunities available, alongside a dangerous lack of access to digital technology and a lack of prison specific training to equip prison educators with the tools they need to effectively work within prison settings.
Catch22 is a leading CRC supply chain partner for Through the Gate services, currently operating 23 custodial-based services in 20 prisons. We are the only offender management unit in the country delivered by a third sector organisation, with our resettlement and gangs services supporting approximately 35,000 people in custody in 2019/20. Given our experience as a key third sector provider in prisons, we would like to see:
A combined sentencing plan
- A prisoner’s education plan should be a key part of their sentencing plan which should be linked into an overarching employability plan – tailored to individual need and the length of the sentence.
- Education targets must be achievable and realistic, based on individual need and life skills, not unrealistic expectations.
- Education programmes must contribute towards addressing criminogenic needs as opposed to solely focusing on educational attainment to accelerate the removal of barriers to learning and support re-engagement with education.
- A clear, mandatory process must be implemented across the estate to identify prisoners who have educational needs and to put the appropriate pathway plan in place.
- Education contracts must be jointly accountable with other involved prison agencies for employment outcomes. This will assist in promoting collaborative working.
- Prisons must have robust violence reduction strategies in place that recognise the impact of gang affiliation to ensure that prisoners feel safe enough to undertake the education programmes on offer.
- Consider adapting the terminology of ‘sentencing plan’ to something more all-encompassing such as ‘Individual Development Plan’ – incorporating sentencing, education, behaviour, health, care, employability.
Regular labour market reviews
- An internal review of labour market need in the resettlement areas of each prison must be undertaken, so that education provision can properly reflect the market demands for employment. This, in turn, must be married with prisoner aspiration, so that prisoner education can be tailored for the right employment prospects for the individual.
- A strategy must be developed and implemented for greater collaboration between prisons and local colleges or businesses, to explore opportunities for prisoners to complete courses outside the prison walls if they’re released before the end of their course (i.e. find a way to incentivise local employers who are willing to offer employment to prisoners and willing to be matched to a specific prisoner cohort by guaranteeing supported training, apprenticeship or job offer).
A digital revolution
- There must be a digital revolution in prisons to ensure the right infrastructure and equipment is available to teach prisoners some of the future-proof skills they will need to enter the job market and contribute positively to society.
Investment in prison educators
- Specialist training must be given to all prison educators to drive up performance and support teachers in delivering high-quality prisoner education that leads to pro-social outcomes. A Teach First or Unlocked Graduates style prison education programme to get high calibre teachers into prisons would be hugely beneficial.
- Prison education must be subject to the same rules as schools if they fail to meet assessment standards.
- Prison education must have a greater emphasis on progression, not just achieving key milestones.