OU Responds to Education Select Committee Report on Prisoner Education

The House of Commons Select Committee on Education today released its report ‘Not just another brick in the wall: Why prisoners need an education to climb the ladder’.

The Open University is the leading provider of higher education in prisons and secure units in England and Wales, operating in over 150 prisons across the UK and currently has around 1,800 students a year in the prisons and secure units. The UO was invited to testify orally before the committee as well as provide written evidence.

Key recommendations from the UO’s submission to the inquiry included:

  • The Student Support Regulations for England and Wales are set to be amended to extend student loan eligibility to include people in prison who have more than six years to go to complete their sentence.
  • Apprenticeships should be available to in-prison learners who are eligible for temporary license release (ROTL).
  • Providing every student with a secure laptop for learning would make higher education more flexible, accessible and foster digital skills. It would also help meet the needs of employers and reduce the difficulty of moving physical materials around prison areas.

Cell study should be classified as a targeted activity to encourage more prisons to expand their educational offer allowing students in prison to choose the course/type of learning that best suits their needs.

Commenting on the committee’s findings, Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, said:

“We welcome the Committee’s recommendations on removing the six-year rule and supporting digital education for inmates.

“As the leading provider of higher education in prisons and secure units in the UK, we have seen the life-changing impact that education can have on prisoners. Education is a powerful tool, as evidenced by our students, and has proven effects in reducing recidivism and helping inmates find employment.

“With some changes to student loan eligibility, an expanded apprenticeship program and better IT security, more people in the justice system could benefit from education. superior and be able to seize the opportunities for transformation it offers.”

Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski, Regional Director, Students in Safe Environments at The Open University, said:

“I got three university degrees in prison. Now I’m a lecturer and regional head of inmate learning at the Open University, all because I received training while serving my sentence. I tell the prisoners I work with how important it is to get an education to help them make changes in their lives. It’s not easy and there is so much more that prisons can do to become true centers of rehabilitation.

“The evidence clearly shows that any form of learning can reduce recidivism on release for many prisoners.”

For more on Stephen’s story, visit ‘I Went From Prisoner To Doctor’ | BBC Ideas – YouTube

Sam D. Gomez