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Adult Learners’ Week: “Digital skills can cut crime”

June 17th 2022: James Tweed from Coracle Inside, in one of Her Majesty's prisons

Crime rates could be cut if inmates were given digital education to prepare them for ‘life on the outside’, a King’s Award-winning prison education expert has said.  

With Adult Learners’ Week (18-24 September) in full swing, James Tweed, founder and CEO of Cambridge-based prison education company Coracle Inside, says digital exclusion is making crime more likely.

Tweed says not preparing former offenders for contactless payments, touch screen technology and smartphones makes rehabilitation incredibly difficult.

“Prisoners are completely cut off from the rapid developments taking place outside. Those who have been inside a long time know little about how digital technology has transformed the world over in the past decade or so.

“Most of us can’t imagine going out without taking our mobile phones with us, but many prisoners emerge without even owning one. It’s difficult for them to buy a train ticket, book an appointment or access services.

“Prisoners are often totally unprepared for life on the outside and more than half reoffend in a year. These issues need to be addressed while they are inside.”

Tweed says prisoners are already demonstrating how much being connected with education providers can impact their future prospects as well as providing them with hope.

“We put laptops into prisons, giving access to education to prisoners in a safe, offline way to improve their digital skills.

“The devices are incredibly popular and we’ve seen some remarkable changes in outlook. Access to education is a huge driver of hope for people who are incarcerated.

“We work with prisoners across England and Wales. The feedback we’ve received over the last few years has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Earlier this year, Coracle won a King’s Award for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity through social mobility, following its successes in 86 prisons throughout England and Wales.

Now, Tweed hopes to expand his operations to help prisoners in every area of the UK and sees potential to build further.

“We’ve seen Coracle grow substantially over the last year, our headcount for the business has doubled and the number of prisoners we’ve helped has grown, too.

“Now, we can use what we’ve learned to expand operations both internally and across to other marginalised communities, wherever internet access is a challenge.

“I’d urge anyone interested in adult education to find out more about how we can help our prisoners develop and grow, both for the prisoners themselves and for the good of society as a whole.

“From what I’ve seen as a result of our work to date, if we can offer prisoners some hope that life can be different after prison, I honestly can’t think of a more rewarding job.”

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