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Experts agree: IT is crucial to prisoners’ education

Unilink hosted a seminar session entitled; Technology, education, corrections – Building bridges not bars at Criminal Justice Management Conference on 23rd September 2015. The objective was to provide a platform for experts in prison education to share their thoughts on the important themes that need to be addressed in taking forward this crucial area of social policy.

The session was chaired by Robin Knowles of Digital Leaders and the speakers were; Rod Clark, CEO of Prisoners’ Education Trust, Anne Pike, Researcher/lecturer from the Open University, Olivia Dorricott, Director of Leadership, Management and Governance of The Education & Training Foundation, Nina Champion from the Prisoners’ Education Trust and Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust.

All the speakers agreed that wider use of IT in prison education was a vital “means” to achieving the “end” of improving outcomes for prisoner students.

The wide ranging discussion covered issues like 75% of prison Governors supporting prisoners having controlled access to the internet and the need for IT to be more readily available than just in education locations during midweek “classroom” time. The capacity of IT to support prisoners use time in their cells – often described as dead time – more constructively and learn time management and self-discipline was pointed out.

Facilitating access to contemporary teaching methodologies – online submission, support and learning communities – was another consistent theme. This is in the context of both learning whilst in custody but also avoiding the “cliff edge” on release where the seamless continuation of education is extremely difficult given the disconnect between education in prison and the community. This is an issue championed by the outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick.

The overall thrust was well expressed by Peter Dawson who invited the audience to imagine looking back from ten years in the future from where, he suggested, “the poor provision of IT in prison education in 2015 will look absurd.”

Unilink would like to thank all the speakers for their contributions.

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