From education to employment

But FPE Highlight Education Issue and Re – Offending

The Home Secretary’s speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last week set out his plans and intentions in continuing the Government’s mission to provide as safe and secure a nation as possible for law ““ abiding citizens.

In the climate of fear and uncertainty that has existed since the horrific events of July of this year, much attention has been paid to law and order issues. And whilst much of the focus of his speech was on issues of immigration and the British participation in the so ““ called “War on Terror” (a moniker of questionable authenticity, according to renowned essayist Gore Vidal who questions the capacity for warfare without a definable nation state on each side), he also addressed the community and local issue of law and order.

“Ello, “Ello, “Ello”¦

One measure which has proven very popular in general has been the expansion of the police force, which in the case of this Government has also included the induction of Community Support Officers. According to his speech, the levels of police are at record levels, with an increase of 14,000 since 1997 in England and Wales and record levels in Scotland as well. In the speech, Home Secretary Charles Clarke claims that crime levels have fallen some 35% since Labour came into power.

However welcome it may be to have more “bobbies on the beat”, there are concerns that this is a largely cosmetic exercise. The public feeling of security is tempered by the awareness that these officers would not be in a position to take preventative action in most cases should there be a terrorist strike in the future. Furthermore, as was recently debated on BBC Radio, the power of a Community Support Officer is extremely limited. It could be argued that the era when the simple presence of an officer on the streets was a preventative measure is passing.

What’s All This, Then?

So, it can be concluded that simply putting more officers on the street is not a measure that will prevent crime. Figures released recently have indicated that providing education courses for offenders is one of the most effective tools for helping prevent them repeating their offence, as can be seen elsewhere on FE News in articles by Aakriti Kaushik, Phillip Byrne and Michael Lloyd.

The Home Secretary recognised this in his speech, saying: “We are a government deeply committed to education and health. But the fact remains that the least educated and least healthy people in the country are those within the criminal justice system. And their poor education and health does not only damage them. It makes them more likely to re-offend and so a greater danger to society than they need to be”¦So for prisons and probation we have a substantial agenda of reform focused rigorously on reducing re-offending and so reducing crime.”

The Forum for Prisoner Education Respond

Commenting on this statement to the Conference, Director of the Forum on Prisoner Education, Steve Taylor, said: “We thoroughly welcome the Home Secretarys attention to the health and education of offenders in custody, but we fear that it will be little more than talk unless his government makes significant progress at stemming the inexorable rise in our prison population, which is today almost 2,500 higher than it was last year.”

In support of the argument in favour of education for prevention, he said: “Prisoners who take part in education are three times less likely to re – offend, and yet on average only a third of prisoners are able to access education. If the Home Secretary is serious about tackling re – offending then he needs to take firm, swift action to reduce the churn and pressure on our prisons.”

Jethro Marsh

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