GE2015: Parties' pledges on prison education

16 Apr 2015

The past few days has seen the launch of all the manifestos of the major parties covering England and Wales and PET brings you a brief summary of the parties’ pledges related to prison learning. So who said what? In date order:

On Friday PET’s Nina Champion and Susannah Henty heard directly from Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, speaking at the Labour Party’s ‘Safer Communities’ mini-manifesto launch. He said: “Education and training in prison saves taxpayers money by reducing reoffending and helping ex-prisoners contribute to society.” Khan added that Labour would give Governors more autonomy and decision-making on education and ensure staff can escort learners to classes. In its manifesto Labour states: “We will do more to increase the amount of time prisoners spend working and learning, measuring prisons for how successful they are in reducing prisoners’ reoffending.” Read the manifesto.

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto also published on Friday, stated the party would help prisoners with mental health needs, women and support numeracy and literacy skills. Read the manifesto.

On Tuesday the Conservatives said they would 'make sure prisons are places of rehabilitation' but there were no specific details on prison education. Read its other criminal justice policies in its manifesto.

The Green Party followed, highlighting statistics showing the educational attainment level of people in prison and promising that ‘education, employment and security for all is at the heart of its crime policy’. Specifically the party would focus on Restorative Justice ‘provide access to real work and education, the work to include repairing the damage done by crime'. It also says prisoners should access art and creative facilities and literacy and numeracy classes from the first day of imprisonment. Read the manifesto.

On Wednesday the UK Independence party stated that ‘Rehabilitation and reintegration into society for all prisoners is a UKIP priority’, and the manifesto sets out its plans for a system in which: “Qualified prisoners will be paid to teach prisoners with a low standard of literacy & numeracy. Prisoners must sign an education covenant requiring them to complete their studies on release. Any money earned in prison must first be used to pay any compensation due to victims and thereafter towards further studies.” Read the manifesto

Finally the Liberal Democrats promised to ‘Reform prisons to focus on turning offenders away from a life of crime.’ Specifically the manifesto says its reforms would ‘make prisons places of work, rehabilitation and learning, with offenders receiving an education and skills assessment within one week, starting a relevant course and programme of support within one month and able to complete courses on release. Improve prison governance and accountability with a new value added measure to assess progress in reducing reoffending, providing education and tackling addiction and mental health issues, enabling good prisons to earn greater autonomy.’ Read the manifesto.

Overall PET welcomes this cross-party support for rehabilitation and broad recognition that learning in prison works. Whoever wins the election, we hope to work with the new government to ensure policies are enable people to develop the skills they need to move away from crime. To this, alongside 21 organisations representing the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA), we will present the new ministers for skills and justice with specific recommendations to improve the education contracts.