Corrective education improves lives

Andy Tayler
Secretary, Corrective Services TA

Corrective education is improving the lives of offenders while saving taxpayers big dollars, a Coogee conference has been told.

It was one of the take-out messages delivered by international speakers, Rachel O’Brien from the United Kingdom, and American Dr Steve Steurer, to 200 delegates at the 11th Australian Correctional Education Association conference.

As a Federation delegate, I was able to attend this valuable event that also featured thought-provoking addresses from Dr Juanita Sherwood, Head of Australian Indigenous Education at UTS and Lena Axelsson, chairperson of the European Prison Education Association.

Ms O’Brien, from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, described a transitions project in East Yorkshire that improves the skills, learning and employment opportunities offered to prisoners to improve their chances of rehabilitation. The program is called the Learning Prison and that was incorporated into the conference title: Correctional Education in the 21st Century — the Learning Prison.

The second message was the positive relationship between education and reduced recidivism. One study quoted a “return on investment” of 2.7 euros for every euro invested in correctional education. Western Australia reported a reduction of between 15 per cent and 17 per cent in re-offending among inmates engaged in education.

In his keynote address, Dr Steuhrer, empahised that one of the biggest issues facing US correctional educators is to provide the public, media and political leaders with “an acceptable rationale” to support correctional education programs.

Perhaps the line that best encapsulates these points was offered by Ms Axelsson when she quoted Victor Hugo: “He who opens a school closes a prison.”