TV roundtable: can education help address violence?

30 Aug 2017

“We should be putting education really at the heart of our prisons,” said PET senior researcher Morwenna Bennallick, in her recent appearance on a TV panel discussion about the rising rate of violence in prisons.

Bennallick took part in Roundtable on TRT World television, together with officials from the prison service and a community activist, discussing the purpose of prisons as places of punishment and rehabilitation.

“Education is important not only for the individual and what are they going to do in their lives -  stopping them from being victim of their society and creating victims - but also about making them positive contributors,” she said.

John Attard, of the Prison Governors’ Association, blamed staff shortages for the difficulties that many learners face.  “The priority for some prisoners isn’t actually education, it’s getting safely from A to B,” said Attard, “If a prisoner is worried about getting mugged on the way to a classroom their tendency to engage in education tends to be reduced.”

But Bennallick said this challenge could be overcome by further promoting education. She discussed her prison-based PhD research, examining the effect of education on the prison culture. “We’ve been able to see that if you invest in some progressive education - not just teaching people to read and to write – [this gives people] aspirations, to maybe go up to university level and to consider themselves as a learner. [This] can have an impact on the way that the prison runs.”

Pastor and restorative justice campaigner Lorraine James, agreed that providing those in custody with an education, can ultimately protect the community. “I spoke to one inmate, who said he attended a class just to get out of his cell. Now the good thing was that attending that class, and going through that restorative justice programme, transformed his mindset.”