Federation locked in to fight for teachers in prisons

Rob Long
Stewart Burkitt

A recent statewide Corrective Services Teachers Association (CSTA) teleconference assured members of the continuing support of Federation for those employed as Education Service Coordinators (ESCs) and Assessment and Planning Officers (APOs), Teachers and Education Officers in Corrective Services (CSNSW).

In May 2016, public education in NSW gaols was privatised and all Senior Correctional Education Officers (SCEO) positions and all but 20 teachers and CEO positions were deleted. Although some CSTA members have continued in other roles in the CSNSW, the majority were made redundant. Despite this and because of the strong activists within CSTA, the association continues to survive.

The introduction of the new privatised education model in NSW gaols has been a disaster for inmate students. Since CSNSW completed the removal of all but 20 public educators in January 2017, TAFE teachers have supplemented some Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) teaching. As yet the new private training company has not commenced classes.

If this level of disruption occurred to a student studying at school or TAFE it would not be tolerated by the community, yet prisoners have limited voice to complain.

To combat this attack, Federation continues to fund the Public Education Beats Crime campaign. This campaign aims to restore quality public education in correctional centres run by qualified teachers. In 2016, with the support of school and TAFE members, the campaign successfully generated 16,000 signatures to have the attacks on quality education in gaols debated in NSW Parliament. Federation will continue to seek opportunities to highlight the decision to remove professional teachers from gaols.

Federation will continue to monitor the provision of LLN across all CSNSW gaols after members expressed concern there appears to be no allocated LLN hours or vocational training for remand inmates.

Additionally, members have recently informed Federation that in some gaols, management has advised that offence-related programs for inmates now take priority over education. This was confirmed by a number of members across the state and Federation concerns have been raised with the Assistant Commissioner.

Chronic understaffing at many gaols has severely reduced inmate access to rehabilitation through education. This is despite consistent evidence from around the world that comprehensive adult education services are the most effective means of reducing re-offending and transforming lives.

Federation will continue to demand that CSNSW and the Government recognise the damage being done by the appalling downgrading of education, and reinstate public provision that the prisoners, the institutions and our community needs.

Stewart Burkitt is the President of CSTA and Rob Long is a TAFE Organiser

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