Celebrating 25 years of prisoner learning

22 Apr 2014

In the same month that a petition against recent rules restricting families and friends from sending books to prisoners reached more than 27,000 signatures, a charity that each year funds 2,000 people in prison to change their lives through education celebrates its 25th birthday.

On 19 April 1989 the charity PET was established. Since then it has enabled thousands of learners to study 28,000 courses in subjects ranging from electrical installation to A-Level History.

PET Logo

Rod Clark, PET Chief Executive, said:

“It is wonderful to know on our 25th birthday that so many members of the public, the media and celebrities recognise the value of books and education in prison. Thousands of people share our belief that it is a vital route to rehabilitation. We also believe education allows people to make a new start, a fresh beginning and a chance to give back to society when they leave prison.

“We know this to be the case, from the many successes of our alumni, who we will be thinking of throughout our anniversary year. We also have statistical evidence to prove it*. Research shows, people we have worked with are a quarter less likely to reoffend than others. This is why the barriers to reading and learning in prison must be removed.

“But we also need support from the public to keep up our vital work, just £20 a month can pay for one of our courses, please donate to show that you believe in second chances.”

As PET’s anniversary fell on the Easter weekend, a time of new beginnings, the charity spoke to its alumni to find out how they have turned their lives around and what they have achieved since leaving prison. PET will tell their stories throughout the year, with the launch of its new website in May, a series of films and a radio documentary about its history.

After receiving funding from PET 10 years ago to study a degree in Health and Social care in prison, Francis Osei-Appiah has now set up his own charity working with young people at risk of crime. He is now a positive role model for his 12 year old son. He says "education set me free" and was key to his success.

Francis, who now heads the charity Reform, Restore, Respect, said:

“When I received the letter from PET agreeing to fund me it felt amazing that somebody was giving me a second chance and not just shutting the door on me and my future. I was motivated to achieve and I focused on that during my sentence, books became my best friends.

“Thanks to PET’s investment in me, my degree got me a very good job in social care. I love my job but I wanted to do more, to give something back to my local community by helping to reduce offending in young people and deter them from joining gangs, as I had.

“People comment on how much I have achieved since leaving prison and there is no question in my mind that much of that achievement can be laid at the door of PET who, despite never meeting me, had faith in what I could achieve."

More stories like Francis’ will be available on PET’s new website launched next month.

Please visit our JustGiving page to donate to PET.

Editor’s Notes

For interview requests PET staff or alumni, prisoners’ case studies, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media and Public Affairs Manager, susannah@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 8648 7760 www.prisonerseducation.org.uk

*A recent 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 a quarter less likely to reoffend than a matched sample of ex-prisoners with the same characteristics.

PET supports this petition to review rules restricting prisoners’ access to books.

About PET

This year Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) celebrates its 25th anniversary. The charity was set up in HMP Wandsworth by a prison teacher and a barrister in 1989 who wanted to offer a wider range of courses to prisoners. That year, PET helped 12 people, now the charity supports approx. 2,000 each year to study distance learning courses across England and Wales. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for prisoners keen to study subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with 18 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.

About Reform, Restore, Respect

Reform Restore Respect was set up by Francis Osei-Appiah to educate, encourage and transform the lives of young people who are vulnerable or at risk of offending or re-offending. The organisation works with school teachers, social workers, youth offending teams, probation officers, police officers, youth workers, prison officers and other organisations in the third sector to hold anti-crime workshops.