In May 2016 the Minister for Corrections, David Elliott, and the Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW, Peter Severin, announced the ‘Better Prisons’ initiative, which would remove over 130 qualified teaching positions in NSW prisons. The proposal would see administrative clerks replace the senior education/education officers and outsource the provision of education to private providers.
The proposal to privatise prison education highlights significant issues such as prisoners’ dependency on private corporations whose main objective is to maximise profits, as well as the problematic outlook that education is merely a means of production. Thus, implementation of the proposal would compromise rehabilitative environments for inmates in the prison system. For a summary of the issues, please refer to the Summary Paper here.
Prison Education Public Forum – August 2016
On 23 August 2016, the Community Justice Coalition (CJC) and International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) facilitated a forum which discussed the New South Wales Government’s recently proposed reforms to prisoner education. These reforms, titled ‘Better Prisons’, attempt to privatise prison education and outsource education responsibilities to administrative clerks, resulting in the cutting of 130 qualified teaching positions.
The CJC website includes related information on the forum, including the Forum Paper, a media release and a short video of the forum itself. For a summary of the key areas of concern, empirical research on the background of the issue and case studies, please refer to the Summary Paper, which can be found here.
Blue Mountain Forum on Prisoner Education – September 2016
On 3 September 2016, the Blue Mountains Unions Council held a ‘Politics in the Pub’ event discussing the impacts of the government’s decision to reform prisoners education. The speakers at the event were Stewart Burkitt (President of the Corrective Services Teachers Association), Leanne Tobin (art teacher at correctional centres) and Brett Collins. Click here for more information about the event.
Proposal for a Parliamentary Inquiry
Justice Action has approached members of the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 for an Inquiry into prisoner education. The members of the Committee are Paul Green (Chair, CDP), Lou Amato (Deputy Chair, Lib), Catherine Cusack (Lib), Scott Farlow (Lib), David Shoebridge (Greens) and Ernest Wong (ALP) and Lynda Voltz (ALP): email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Any support would be helpful.
The proposed terms of reference for the inquiry are as follows:
a) The role of prisoner education in rehabilitating inmates and reducing recidivism
b) The impact of proposed changes to prison education on inmates and staff
c) The role of qualified teaching staff in correctional facilities, particularly for women, young people and people with special needs
d) Access to education for inmates held on remand, particularly for young people
e) Whether the proposed changes will achieve the stated objective of improving the performance and efficiency of the prison system
f) Any other related matters
Arts Education Also Under Attack
In addition to prisoner education, economic cutbacks have affected tertiary education, especially courses in arts which have suffered due to being particularly resource intensive. The government, to avoid inessential costs, have decided to relocate studios from the Sydney College of the Arts. Funding reduction in art education will not only affect the general population but also inmates in prisons, who use art as a form of self-expression as well as a form of relaxation and rehabilitation.
Click here for Sydney College of the Arts and National Art School statement.