17 Jul 2015

Gove to focus on prison education as way of reducing reoffending

There will be no mention of a “rehabilitation revolution” in Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s first speech on prisons today.

Instead he will focus on “education education education” and some form of rewards programme for prisoners the more they learn.

The grim news is the so-called “revolution” has barely had any effect on the “reoffending rates”, either for adults or those sentenced to “less than 12 months” during Chris Grayling’s time in office.

So his successor inherited a prison system which, in the words of the chief inspector Nick Hardwick this week, is at its worst state for a decade, with many establishments  simply places of violence, squalor and idleness.

Mr Gove will acknowledge today society is still failing to make prisons work.

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce reoffending.”


Somewhat stating the obvious, but he will go on to suggest that one reason is that prisoners are not being offered the right incentives to learn, and staff are not being encouraged to prioritise education.

Hence a vague plan to introduce a system where offenders earn their release through education and where prison governors become more autonomous, with more control over standards of teaching and of learning.

All very well, but so many inside are innumerate and illiterate.

Mr Gove will say “getting poorly educated adults to a basic level of literacy and numeracy is straightforward, if tried and tested teaching models are followed, as the armed forces have demonstrated. So the failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible.”

If it was that simple, one wonders why more hasn’t been achieved over the last five years.

The prison chief inspector said this week the most immediate problems are overcrowding and losing more than 400,00 days a year to staff sickness in the prison system.

There is no mention of that in today’s speech.

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