“Unacceptable for prisoners to be locked up all day when they could be learning”, says charity in response to HMIP report

23 Oct 2013

In response to today’s HM Inspectorate of prisons’ annual report, PET is seriously concerned that too many prisoners are being locked in their cells with nothing to do when they could be using their time to learn.

In the last year, only half of prisons are rated ‘good’ for purposeful activity – a term which includes education and work.

The report highlights that in half the establishments, there were not enough activity places for the number of prisoners – particularly in local prisons, but worryingly also in training prisons. In the report, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, writes:

"To compound this shortfall, there was a widespread and unacceptable failure to fill the places available. Half of all prisons failed to use their available places effectively, leaving prisoners unnecessarily without work or training."

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, PET, said:

"It is not only unacceptable and dangerous for prisoners to be locked up in their cells all day; it is also a wasted opportunity to transform their lives and reduce their likelihood of reoffending. Reducing reoffending saves the economy money and most importantly prevents more victims of crime.

"Having access learning and training opportunities, both in prison and after release, helps people get a job and cuts their chances of reoffending in half. Sadly many people are leaving prison without the qualifications, soft skills or the support they need to gain employment. This is particularly important in the current economic climate with the additional barrier of a criminal record.

"Ministers have recognised just how vital education is for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Therefore learning must be at the heart of a prison's culture and regime."

"If the Government is serious about transforming rehabilitation and enabling people to turn away from crime when they leave prison, then cut-backs must not be made at the expense of education, training and skills provision."

The report also highlights that education providers are not paid on the outcomes of ex-prisoners going into employment or training. PET agrees that there is too much focus on target outputs. Instead there needs to be increased focus on what works in securing positive outcomes for the leaner after release including desisting from crime and contributing positively to their families and society.

The inspections’ findings follow on from the recent announcement by Ofsted on failing standards in prison education and a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which found literacy and numeracy rates among young adults across the UK are worryingly low. Both highlight that our failing standards in adult education are having a negative effect on both society and the economy.

Editor’s Notes

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager: Susannah@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 8648 7760 or visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk. Case studies and interviews with former prisoners whose lives have been transformed by education are available on request.


HM Inspectorate of prisons’ annual report

The need to improve the standards of prison education has been highlighted by HMP inspections published throughout 2013 and during Ofsted’s annual lecture 2013.

The Ministry of Justice has carried out research both on educational achievements of prisoners and reoffending rates.

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 18 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.