Gaol learning threatened

Stewart Burkitt
Rob Long

Federation holds grave concerns that the Baird Government is planning to privatise education in NSW gaols.

Federation representatives met senior management of Corrective Services (CSNSW) on March 10 to discuss the progress of the Education Review submission current being prepared by consultants KPMG. Assistant Commissioner Dr Anne Marie Martin reported that the response to the final submission to the NSW Government Expenditure Review Committee could be announced as early as April.

CSTA representatives were informed that the submission involves a “hybrid model with some existing staff and some external providers”.

Current provision consists of education staff permanently employed by CSNSW with vocational education provided by TAFE.

Privatisation of public education provision will be a disaster for successful rehabilitation of NSW prisoners. Privatisation runs counter to the stated aim of reducing recidivism outlined in the CSNSW state plan.

Our community has high expectations that inmates will have access to high-quality education delivered by highly-qualified and experienced public education teachers in this uniquely complex and volatile environment.

At the current time, public education is even more critical given the dramatic rise in the level of prisoners being incarcerated in NSW. Senior managers informed Federation representatives that prison numbers are expected to reach 13,000 by December, the highest ever recorded number.

This current trend in prisoner numbers is expected to continue to rise, and this will require even more provision, rather than less, of public education. This pressure on the CSNSW system is leading to a “warehousing” approach, with all the inherent dangers of tension and potential violence within the gaols.

Research has continually demonstrated that prisoners who engage in adult education while incarcerated have a 10–15 per cent less risk of returning to gaol.

The role of education, including the operation of prison libraries, contributes to the good order of each gaol. This results in a safer environment for all workers and prisoners. It is essential that every gaol in NSW has the capacity to offer public education to every prisoner. Any level of privatisation will inevitably have an impact on the ability to provide education across each gaol in NSW.

Federation will continue to campaign to stop the privatisation of public education in NSW gaols.

The Education Beats Crime campaign has commenced with briefing state members of parliament and other community and union organisations. All Federation members are encouraged to support this important campaign.

Stewart Burkitt is President of the CSTA and Rob Long is a Post School Organiser.

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