The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) has set out how education can be improved in prisons, in a response to an inquiry by the Education Select Committee.
To form our response, we held an expert group meeting of members working in prison education and employment. This included the Prisoners’ Education Trust, The Forward Trust, Working Chance, StandOut, Bounce Back and Tempus Novo.
In the response to the inquiry, we call for prisons to work more closely with employers who have jobs available, to co-create programmes which teach the vocational skills that the employers need. We also call for a much greater focus on digital skills; for prisons to help individuals develop soft skills and the right mindset for work; and for greater availability of higher-level qualifications.
We set out how the prison regime hinders education and training, with several hours during the day often lost and people arriving late for sessions due to a lack of prison officers. The lack of digital infrastructure is also a significant barrier to both prison education delivery and enabling communication between prison staff, prisoners, employment-focused organisations and employers.
People with lived experience can engage others with education and employment, and we recommend giving contracts to organisations who employ people with lived experience and reforming opaque and onerous vetting procedures.
We discuss how investing in the infrastructure around probation and community sentences such as unpaid work placements, rather than investing in enlarging the prison estate, is a more effective long-term strategy.
In the response, we also discuss increasing buy-in from prison officers, how apprenticeships in prison might work, how prisons can greater involve families, and other key issues.