Unlocking potential: a review of education in prison

Dame Sally Coates’ report and recommendations following her review of education in prison can be viewed here.

We believe the below will be of particular interest to Women’s Breakout members.

Women (p33/34)
3.36 The number of women in the estate has also been falling (there were 3,904 on 30 June 2015). Women prisoners have a different profile in relation to their offending, and higher prevalence of need in a range of areas, with greater levels than male prisoners of Class A drug use and mental health problems.

3.37 Responses to my call for evidence suggested that prisons should avoid stereotyping in the educational courses they offer. In women’s prisons, one correspondent complained, “hair and beauty reign supreme…there needs to be more mechanical courses for women, and more training around life skills and managing emotions for men.”

3.38 As well as the need to ensure women have access to a broad curriculum, NOMS and education providers have been piloting a more holistic programme that includes PSD and recognises women’s caring responsibilities. This programme has been piloted in three women’s prisons, with some encouraging initial findings. Both learners and staff believed that participants developed greater confidence and optimism about the future, and many participants perceived positive changes in themselves, such as in their motivation to learn and to find a job upon release.

3.39 Employment outcomes for women following short prison sentences are three times worse than for men. Fewer than one in ten women have a job to go to on release. There must be concerted efforts to address this. I have seen good practice from employers like Census Data and Sue Ryder, who work with women in prison and on release. Governors should seek to develop further opportunities for work experience.

Good Practice in Unlocking Potential
The charity, Sue Ryder, runs a Prison Volunteer Programme that offers volunteering placements in its shops and offices to women (and male) prisoners who are released on temporary licence (ROTL). These placements build confidence, prepare participants for eventual release and increase the skills and experience they can offer employers.

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