Restricted regimes and overcrowding impact education finds HMIP report

23 Oct 2014

In response to HM Inspectorate of prisons’ annual report published on Tuesday 21st October, PET is disappointed that prisoners are still spending too much time locked up, instead of studying or completing training to enable them to move on from prison.

Overall purposeful activity (education and work) remains as weak as it had in the previous year, with only around half of prisons rated as ‘good’ and over a quarter of prisons ‘poor’. The report found that overcrowding in addition to contributing to serious safety concerns, had led to ‘insufficient’ activities and only 22 prisons inspected had enough places for the population. Further, staff shortages and restricted regimes in the summer of 2014 meant that access to work and education was cancelled due to safety concerns. It also found, like PET’s recent report Brain Cells: Listening to Prisoner Learners (3rd edition) that the range of learning provision offered few opportunities for prisoners to progress.

In the report, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, writes:

“Equipping prisoners with the skills, experience and habits they need to get and hold down a job is an essential part of the rehabilitation process – in my view, probably the most important…However, there remains a real risk that the price of restoring stability and safety to prisons will not just be the costs involved but a prolonged period in which prisoners have reduced access to the work, education and resettlement activities on which the rehabilitation of many depends.”

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners Education Trust, (PET) said:

“It has been a great shame over the past year that education in prisons has suffered from restricted regimes and overcrowding. This report backs up what we have seen; positive initiatives being cancelled, prisoners unable to attend class and committed staff struggling to deliver the quality of teaching they would like. Unfortunately like last year’s report we are still seeing prisoners spending too much time locked up with little to do. Quite apart from other concerns, it is a massive waste of opportunity if only 17% of adult men and just 4% of young adults are able to spend more than 10 hours out of cell on a weekday.

“Education, training and other rehabilitative programmes are proven to help people to develop and plan for positive, crime-free futures, making them less likely to reoffend. Of course in the current climate safety must be prioritised but giving prisoners something meaningful to do helps achieve this aim, education improves people’s behaviour and therefore contributes towards a safer environment for inmates and staff.”

Other issues raised included too few activity places available, not enough help for prisoners to improve basic literacy and numeracy skills and a lack of coordination with sentence plans and other rehabilitation activity.

The report also highlights that the new contractual arrangements for learning and skills, which came into force in 2012 have not improved outcomes and highlights that education providers do not measure the numbers of ex-prisoners going into employment or training.

Editor’s Notes:

Case studies and interviews with former prisoners whose lives have been transformed by education are available on request.

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager:; 020 8648 7760 or visit


HM Inspectorate of prisons’ annual report:

PET's latest report, Brain Cells: Listening to Prisoner Learners (3rd edition), published September 2014.

A report was carried out by the MoJ Justice Data Lab, published in January 2014 which shows people supported by PET to study distance learning courses in prison are more than a quarter less likely to reoffend than a matched control group of other ex-prisoners.

About Us

Since 1989, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.