Monday, August 2, 2010

Lib Dems call for more action on Scottish prison education, education without opportunity has no value for prisoners, law change required

Dear All

I was over at the The Spectator in their Coffeehouse section; it is an English Tory lovefest over there so I like to pop in and fly the flag being Scottish.

David Blackburn fires up a piece on Asbos which I replied to a comment by John Lea, later on I get into a debate with him which ends up me talking about prison and education.

So, it isn’t surprising that the Liberal Democrats have called for action to increase the "disappointing" number of prisoners who take part in education programmes while behind bars.

I have a tendency to be ahead of the curve sometimes.

So education!

What good is education to a prisoner?

Does it have any value?

Like many questions the answer isn’t straight forward as it may seem.

Education is only of value if you can use it to change your circumstances.

Most prisoners are shut out of the job market, so education has little appeal inside other than to relieve boredom.

Does anyone want to aspire to be a well educated menial?

Figures show an average of 2,651 prisoners attended learning centres in 2009-10.

Kilmarnock Prison only 15% of inmates took classes.

Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison 17% took classes.

The Scottish Prison Service say prisons provide a wide range of educational opportunities but if the job market situation isn’t addressed then its wasted.

Lib Dem Party justice spokesman Robert Brown said:

"It is disappointing that prisoners are not taking up the opportunity to learn new skills or learn toward a qualification while behind bars. It confirms the long-held belief that prisons can be colleges of crime where prisoners often come out worse than they went in."

What would help prisoners, education surely but what else?

A change in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is needed.

We have to give people coming out of prison a fresh start once they have served their sentence.

That requires a change in the law!

Lib Dems looked at a small part of the bigger picture and think that solves the problem.

This is not the way to break the cycle of crime; education alone is not enough.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University


Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

The problem with the disclosure is most employers who are able to ask for one do(and many more are doing so regardless of need)

And once they find out you have a criminal record that is the end of the application process.

for many the length of time passed of the type of crime make no difference at all..its just a no.

you become limited to certain sectors to find employment or you stay unemployed till you die(or continue in a life of crime)

unfortunately this i found out from personal bitter experience.

George Laird said...

Dear Mxyzptlk

I think that if any politician is serious about breaking the cycle of crime, then changes to the rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 are needed.

I was watching a Panorama programme, a guy who had been a tearaway as a kid decided to change.

He had racked up 40 offences, mostly daft stupid stuff but wanted to make a fresh start.

So, he filled in the job application and covered up his past.

He worked hard and his employer had no complaints, by all accounts was said to be a good worker.

Then they found out and dismissed him.

His hard work was all for nothing.

So what message does this send out?

The wrong one I would argue.

I would favour a law change to address this problem.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

Anonymous said...

as an ex offender myself i find it very hard to obtain employment even in this day A change needs to be done with regards the Rehabilitation of offenders act and in the way disclosures are done.
My last conviction for any offenece was in 1999, driving offences, and still have this libelled against me in any disclosure that is required. As you can imagine i find it really really difficult for an employer to take me on and once i'm asked for disclosure details, i bottle out of taking my application further as it is embarrasing to admit that in the past i was a bit of a rogue.
People do and can change, if they want to, im an example of that though feel that due to the rehab of offenders act and discloure scotland, i will never ever be free of my criminal past.
Unfortunetely prison education does not chnage most who use the services in priosn, most prisoners only take on the facilities available to them to get out their cell, most who are couped up 23hours a day, so by getting into educuation classes whilst in priosn, in some-way relives the boredom, but failes to really educate the person. Some people do want to change, unfortunetely the biggest majority of them dont

Anonymous said...

Good article George

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with victimizing criminals and discriminating against them. Woolly liberal attitudes Mr. Laird. Keep the boot on their necks and let them suffer is my view.

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