Nogbad’s Education

May 27, 2010

Like death?

Filed under: Offender learning, OU — nogbad @ 22:43

In Victorian times most people died at home, it was part of living and the cycle of life. We accepted death. Recently this has shifted and now most people die away from their home, death has become something which is often feared and misunderstood. Prisons are the same. Society locks people away and then knows only what the media decide we should be told. There is little narrative about the successes while the red tops will jump on the mistakes.

But we need to better understand what happens in prison because we, society, are the customers. We are the beneficiaries of the prison service in that part of its purpose is to protect us by keeping in custody those who might do us harm. It is also tasked with rehabilitating offenders so that when they are released they can be integrated into society and contribute. This costs us about 2.5% of GDP, the annual cost of re-offending is around £11 billion and each person in prison costs something in the order of £40k/annum. A 2% cut in re-offending, less 1% for fixed costs, would save £120m. A 5%  cut less 2.5% fixed costs would bring in £325m/annum. These data from Tom Schuller’s presentation at a conference today and they are from a paper commissioned by NIACE as part of their “Learning Through Life: Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning“. This specific paper is “Crime & Lifelong Learning. Thematic paper 5” and it’s well worth reading. In 2008 the National Audit Office were less than happy about the way money was being spent on prison education (“Meeting needs? The Offenders Learning and Skills Service” 2008) – the spend on offender education isn’t a new story but it’s also not a news story and that’s our fault.

It’s time we viewed prisons in a similar way to hospitals. We might not want to know what happens in every nook and cranny but we expect everyone who is admitted to be cared for during their stay, that our money is being used wisely and that as many people as possible come out better than they went in. We need to look past the sensationalised media reports and start questioning what is really happening and whether it is making a positive difference. We frequently see hospital managers and chief execs on TV talking about their successes so why not prison governors? We need to stop wilfully ignoring what is happening to so many of the damaged members of our society, we need to start engaging with the prison system.

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