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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 01:37 GMT 02:37 UK
Prisoners 'need better education'
prison classroom
The report says vocational training is "vital"
Education for prisoners in England must be improved if they are to be prevented from re-offending, MPs have said.

A Commons education select committee report found that half of inmates lacked the skills needed for 96% of jobs available upon their release.

Only a third had access to formal education, lasting on average nine hours a week.

The government said a green paper on prison learning was being prepared and the MPs' report would be considered.

'Re-offending'

The committee found just 31 out of 75,000 prisoners had access to the internet "as a learning tool".

Prisoners need high-quality teaching that is suited to their individual needs
Barry Sheerman
education committee chairman
Its chairman, Barry Sheerman, said: "Although the government has increased resources for prison education, it has not fully met its manifesto commitment to 'dramatically increase the quality and quantity of education provision'.

"Re-offenders are costing the tax payer an estimated 11bn a year. Education has a key role in rehabilitating prisoners into society and finding them secure employment.

"If prisoners are to find a real alternative to crime on their release, then prisons will have to dramatically improve their provision.

"Prisoners need high-quality teaching that is suited to their individual needs."

Employer role

The committee found more than half of male prisoners had no qualifications.

The unremitting diet of basic skills we currently see in prison education is based not on any real measure of individual need
Steve Taylor
Forum on Prisoner Education
It called for an "overarching strategy" on education, linked to "a wider strategy for rehabilitation".

It recommended that more employers should run vocational training for inmates.

Mr Sheerman said: "Vocational training in prisons, that can prepare an inmate for a real job on their release, is vital to reduce re-offending."

The MPs found prison officers gave a "low priority" to education and that inmates were being paid more for "repetitive work in workshops" than for joining learning programmes.

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said the current budget of 136m a year for prisoner education would rise to 152.5m from 2005-6.

Provision was improving from a "poor baseline", she added.

'Vicious circle'

But the director of the Forum on Prisoner Education, Steve Taylor, said the report "consigns all the government bluster to the dustbin".

"We have long said that the unremitting diet of basic skills we currently see in prison education is based not on any real measure of individual need."

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The government's failure to get a grip on prison overcrowding has created a vicious circle of re-offending. This has led to thousands of unnecessary victims of crime."

The Conservatives' plans for 20,000 extra prison places would provide the conditions for rehabilitation and education to take place.

The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, said: "Despite clear improvements in prison education there are still far too many blocks to prisoner participation and pathetically low levels of purposeful activity in many overcrowded jails."




SEE ALSO:
Prisoner behaviour plan queried
21 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Call for better prison learning
15 Oct 03 |  Education


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