“Giving prisoners a voice is more important than ever before”, Eric McGraw gives PET’s Annual Lecture

28 Oct 2015

Prisoners’ Education Trust will be hosting its Annual Lecture on Monday 2nd November 2015 in London with Eric McGraw, Managing Editor and Founder of Inside Time, the national prisoners’ newspaper.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Inside Time after it was created to offer prisoners a platform for their voices to be heard and allow them to share their experiences and frustrations about life in prison.

The newspaper was founded following one of the biggest riots in prison history at HMP Manchester (formerly known as Strangeways) when prisoners took to the roof and protested for 25 days over prison conditions. Inside Time was established to give prisoners an outlet to raise concerns and today it has never been more relevant; just months ago, another protest took place at HMP Manchester.

Lord Woolf’s seminal report, which followed the 1990 riot, examined prison conditions and made a number of recommendations, including greater consultation with prisoners. This is a key principle for Inside Time, and underpins the importance of listening to learners’ voices in prison, which PET has long championed.

Mr McGraw will also be discussing some of the key issues highlighted by prisoners who have written articles and letters for Inside Time over the years. He said:

“Inside Time was established in the same year as the riots in Strangeways 25 years ago and was hugely influenced by the Woolf Inquiry which followed. 

“Lord Woolf, Former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, delivered a report identifying the reforms needed to make sense of our prison system so that prisoners left prison less, and not more, likely to reoffend. He called for the system to make the best possible use of a person’s time in prison, and that includes access to education and opportunities to voice their concerns and experiences. Inside Time has given them a voice over the 25 years since. Over that time ministers and their reforms have come and gone while the challenge of rehabilitation has remained, with the prison population also doubling, at huge cost to taxpayers.”

Rod Clark, PET Chief Executive, said:

“At a time when the Prime Minister, David Cameron and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove are both focused on prison reform and the importance of improving prisoners’ education, Inside Time’s role as a vehicle for informing and communicating with prisoners in how they do this, is increasingly important. The current Coates Review into prison education is a perfect example of this, as Inside Time seeks readers’ views on what the government can do to improve learning in prison.

“We are proud to have supported many journalists in prison over the years, and through our partnership with Inside Time, we have informed and inspired many prisoners to pursue whatever subjects they are passionate about. I thank Eric McGraw for giving this lecture and congratulate him for setting up and editing this pioneering newspaper.”

The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion including PET alumnus and Inside Time journalist Noel Smith, former Chief Inspector of Prisons Lord Ramsbotham (Inspector from 1995 – 2001) and PET’s Head of Policy, Nina Champion, who will be examining the importance of listening to learners’ voices and the role education can play in prison life.

Editors’ Notes

PET’s Annual Lecture on Monday 2nd November will be held from 6.30pm at the Clifford Chance LLP in Canary Wharf.

For interviews, photos, to reserve your place or find out further information please contact Anthony Knight (PET), Fundraising and Communications Officer: anthony@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 3752 5681 or visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk

About PET

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.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison. Rod Clark, Chief Executive of PET, is a member of the expert panel for the review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates announced by the Secretary of State for Justice at: Statement to Parliament: Education in prison. The inquiry is seeking views and evidence until Friday 13 November 2015 https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PrisonEducationReview