Education in prisons: Ufi's response to the Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice have launched their Prisons Strategy White Paper, "A strategy to cut crime and protect the public with a modern, secure prison estate designed to rehabilitate prisoners". The paper, which sets out a vision for the next 10 years, addressees the most critical areas for reducing reoffending.

At Ufi we believe that a quality education is fundamental to supporting prisoners in gaining the skills they need for stable and secure employment upon release. We also believe that digital tools and technology present a proven means to deliver the prison education system that the UK needs.

In our response to the White Paper we have made recommendations to Government focused on three key points:

  1. Addressing the inconsistency and fragmentation of the prison system;
  2. Supporting security; and
  3. Reducing recidivism

Our response is supported by case studies from several Ufi supported projects operating within the UK’s prison and probation sector, each of which demonstrates how technology can help prisoners gain the skills they need to succeed in work.

You can download our full response and read the Executive Summary below.

A quality education is fundamental to achieving a safe and secure prison population and to reducing reoffending rates. Digital tools and technology are essential to deliver the prison education system the UK needs.

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO, Ufi VocTech Trust

Executive Summary

  1. The UK’s prisons and probation service needs to protect the public by holding offenders securely while they serve their sentence and rehabilitating them to reduce the chances of recidivism upon release. A quality education is fundamental to achieving a safe and secure prison population and to reducing reoffending rates.
  2. The future of the UK’s education system needs to be considered in its entirety. Within the education system, the importance of a high calibre and digitally advanced prison education, which has at its core vocational and informal learning, must not be overlooked.
  3. Providing the right training and skills in an effective and cost-efficient manner is critical for improving prison security and reducing reoffending. The digital tools and technology that Ufi VocTech Trust supports present a tried and tested way to deliver the prison education system that the UK needs.
  4. The UK must address the fundamental inconsistency and fragmentation of the prison system by developing a strategy that is focused on reducing reoffending rates and improving chances of employment through the adoption and understanding of digital learning methods. These technologies need to be a core part of the strategy to adapt a quality education to prison life and improving prisoners’ chances at securing stable employment.
  5. Technology that enables learning and training must be embedded throughout vocational education in prisons. Our experience supporting projects that are developing and deploying innovative technology, such as contextual learning, in-cell access to technology, and digital pathways into stable employment, show us the necessity of their central role in improving behaviour in prison and reducing reoffending in the long-term.
  6. The UK’s criminal justice system must adopt a comprehensive strategy for prison education that integrates the importance of vocational education and the potential for technology to improve outcomes for learners, future employers, and society as a whole.

Key points

  • An overarching strategy, that connects prison education and technology, can address the inconsistency and fragmentation of the prison system. Technology, well integrated into prison education through a cohesive national strategy, offers prison learning the capacity to adapt more effectively and cost-efficiently to individuals, whether it’s through pre-diagnostic questionnaires and quizzes, AI and tracking, or self-selection of modular content.
  • When technology is successfully integrated into prison education, it supports security by giving prisons the capacity to engage and support offenders wherever they are. With a broad and overarching strategy behind a digitally advanced prison education it would be possible to map learner data, improve credentialling, and give prisoners the opportunity to gain skills that are recognised by employers.
  • To reduce recidivism, it is essential to maintain a relationship to education throughout an offender’s transition from prison to probation and onto secure employment. Technology can support prisoners by preparing them for the workplace and connecting them to employers increasing their chances of succeeding on the outside.

Recommendations

  1. To achieve the Government’s goal, of creating a prison system that securely detains offenders while reducing recidivism, it requires a comprehensive national strategy that integrates effective and cost-efficient technology with prison education that prepares offenders for work. To accomplish this, Government needs to:

    a) Be Strategic – A national strategic framework is required to set high standards for prison education and the technology that should support it. Current education efforts are ineffective and costly, we believe that technology deployed as part of a strategic approach can improve outcomes in prison education and security.

    b) Improve Infrastructure – To ensure prison education can support rehabilitation, a national framework for prison education must provide for a high and consistent standard of wi-fi access, data sharing, and cross-prison tracking of learning and progress. This will allow individual governors to adapt their education offering to the needs of prisoners, using transferable solutions, like digital badging, to allow prisoner’s learning to be tracked throughout their period of incarceration.

    c) Set High Standards for Content – For prisoners to secure positive opportunities at the end of their sentence, a national framework must ensure a minimum standard of quality in all education content. Technology has the capacity to make developing skills more relevant to individual prisoners, through processes like initial assessment or self-selecting modular content, and it is essential that prison education meets high standards that ensure prisoners develop useful and work relevant skills.
  2. Using a national strategic framework to approach using technology in prison (with suitable safeguards), would then give governors the capacity to access a wider range of scalable, effective, and cost-efficient technology that supports the improvement of skills for work.

To discuss Ufi's consultation response please contact Josh Smith, Ufi Public Affairs Officer at josh.smith@ufi.co.uk.

Education in prisons and the secure sector

A selection of resources from Ufi.

  • Criminal Justice

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    The use of technology for learning and skills development in prisons and secure settings.

  • VocTech in the prison sector: Insights for further education

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    #VocTechFutures Episode 2: VocTech in the prison sector: Insights for further education

  • Fluence

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    AI assisted decision-making for educators

  • SITE IT

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    VR learning for prisoners on Health & Safety in construction

  • Way To Work

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    Socrates Software is working with probationers to tackle unemployment and help reduce reoffending rates.