PET launches new Welsh Prisons Project

28 Jan 2016

In December 2015, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) launched a pilot project aiming to improve the provision of distance learning in the four Welsh prisons. Working with prisoners and staff at HMP Cardiff, HMP & YOI Parc, HMP Swansea and HMP Usk/Prescoed, the project will examine practical measures to increase the numbers of prisoners accessing distance learning and enhance the support that PET currently gives to its learners. The Welsh Prison Project hopes to identify ways that PET can be more effective in achieving positive outcomes and to do so in a way that is sustainable and replicable, and generates evaluation evidence of effectiveness. While there are no women’s prisons in Wales, the project will also explore avenues for supporting the learning journey of women distance learners returning to Wales after imprisonment in England.

During the 18 month life of the project, we intend to produce a range of support materials for our learners and their supporters; a learner pack containing study support materials to be given to each PET funded learner in a Welsh prison, a pack for professionals which gathers together relevant information and acts as a toolkit for those supporting distance learners in prison, and a guide to educational opportunities in the community for PET learners after release. In a further phase of the project we hope to establish learning communities supporting PET learners in each of the Welsh prisons, facilitated by a PET mentor or coordinator. We envisage that these communities will be self-sustaining, allowing prisoners to take charge of their own learning, to support their peers on their educational journeys and to build social capital around prison learning. The final phase of the project will focus on providing ‘through the gate’ support, encouraging and supporting PET learners who wish to continue their education in the community after release. We hope to assist with the establishment of peer-support communities composed of PET alumni, to support those continuing their educational journey after prison.

Underpinning all this work will be an adherence to PET’s aim of offering prisoners access to education, improving their self-esteem, supporting their desistance journey and enabling them to choose a more constructive way of life. Each element of the Welsh Prisons Project will encourage prisoner learners to develop an identity as a ‘student’. PET believes that this identity will help prisoners to spend their sentence in a positive, productive way and can be taken forward after release to allow ex-prisoners to play a positive role in their local communities.

The Welsh Prisons Project will be assessed by independent evaluators to ensure that any findings are credible and that any evidence produced by the project could, if justified, be used to promote this approach more widely in the future.

PET is keen to work with other sector organisations to improve our offer to prison learners and to identify areas where we could work together. We are also especially keen to hear from any ex-prisoners based in Wales to get their thoughts and advice on the project. Please contact Clare Lloyd, Head of the Welsh Prisons Project at clare.lloyd@prisonerseducation.org.uk if you’d like to learn more.