Prisoners should be given free laptops and access to online learning, say MPs

17 May 2022, 22:04

A committee of MPs has said some prisoners should be given laptops
A committee of MPs has said some prisoners should be given laptops. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Prisoners who are studying should be given laptops or other devices to ensure they can complete their education, according to a report from the Commons' Education Committee.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Prisoners who are studying should also have access to online learning resources, it says, although it raises concerns about prisoners having "unfettered" access to the internet.

"If security can be assured and access can be monitored and tightly restricted to educational purposes, we recommend that the Ministry of Justice provide in-cell laptops, such as Chromebooks, to prisoners only when undertaking education," it says.

Read more: End of Sharia courts in jail: Crackdown on terrorists radicalising prisoners behind bars

Read more: Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault allegations spanning 7 years

The report notes that in December 2020, Ofsted rated just nine out of 32 institutions as "good" for their prison education, with none rated "outstanding".

It added that data showed more than 30 per cent of prisoners had a learning disability or learning challenges, and that this figure was likely to be an underestimate, given that prisons rely on inmates identifying their own needs.

There are just 25 special educational needs and disabilities coordinators (Senco) across the prison estate, equating to about one Senco for every four prisons.

Justice Secretary reacts to growth of terrorism in prisons

It also recommends that the Ministry of Justice introduces a consistent assessment for every prisoner upon entry to prison from an educational psychologist, "or at the very least a more intensive form of screening".

The report adds that there needs to be a "whole prison approach" to prisoners with learning difficulties, as a lack of information sharing between departments prevents inmates from accessing the help they need.

The report says that the Government should legislate so that prisons can access inmates' records through the National Pupil Database, so they can see prisoners' prior attainment and learning needs.

Read more: Stop calling prisoners 'residents', jail staff told in new woke crackdown

Read more: Plans to tear up NI post-Brexit deal 'won't get through Lords', says former justice sec

And it recommends that digital education passports be introduced for prisoners, so that inmates transferred to other prisons at short notice can continue their education as quickly as possible, and do not become disheartened through delays in passing on information about their studies.

"It is unacceptable that the effort made by prisoners in improving themselves can be so easily discarded," the report says.

The report says that links between prisons and employers should be improved, given that the reoffending rate for adult prisoners released from custody is 42 per cent, at an estimated yearly cost of £15 billion.

Businesses should be encouraged to employ former prisoners through incentives such as national insurance holidays during the first year of employing former inmates, the report says.

A deputy governor of learning should be responsible for educational outcomes for prisoners in each institution, and pay for education must be equal to that for work to incentivise prisoners to continue studying, the report says.

It adds that the current student loan regulations do not allow prisoners with more than six years left before their earliest release date to access student loans.

"This regulation disproportionately affects people who might benefit most from higher-level study. The Government must remove the "six-year rule" so that prisoners on long sentences can apply for higher education courses earlier in their sentence," it argues.

Nick grills Justice Secretary on new smart prisons

The report says that prison education is in a "poor state" following long-term decline.

In the year 2017-18, the number of prisoners participating in a course equivalent to AS-levels or above showed a 90 per cent decrease compared to the 2010/11 academic year.

The education committee said that the report "highlights the cracks in a clunky, chaotic, disjointed system which does not value education as the key to rehabilitation".

Read more: Coleen's Wagatha Christie dossier as full texts and posts revealed in court

Read more: Schools may have to cut portion sizes as price hikes bite, food boss warns

Robert Halfon, chair of the committee, said: "For the majority of offenders, prison must be a place where an old life ends, and a new one begins.

"The key to starting again is education. Education - from a practical apprenticeship to a masters' degree - increases employability, one of the most important factors in reducing reoffending."

Education in prisons has been branded "shambolic"
Education in prisons has been branded "shambolic". Picture: Alamy

He added that six years' after the review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates, "prison education is in a chaotic place".

"Shambolic transfer of records, no assessment for educational needs and the lack of access to modern learning tools add up to paint a dismal picture.

"The Government has shown its commitment to enabling ex-prisoners to climb the ladder of opportunity by extending the apprenticeship scheme to prisoners, and I thank Nadhim Zahawi and Dominic Raab for recognising how important this is.

"However, there must be a root-and-branch overhaul that extends throughout prison culture."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Azzarello was pictured outside the courthouse a day earlier with a conspiracy sign

'Researcher', 37, set himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial in shocking 'political protest'

Matt Healy's family have spoken out amid speculation that one of Taylor Swift's new songs is about him.

'Nothing surprises him anymore': Matt Healy's family break silence over claims new Taylor Swift tracks are about him

Geri Halliwell and Christian Horner are said to be in talks for a documentary

Geri Halliwell and Christian Horner 'in talks to make fly-on-the-wall documentary' following 'inappropriate behaviour' row

An officer threatened to arrest the man for 'breaching the peace'

Police apologise after threatening to arrest 'openly Jewish' man at a march - then say sorry again amid backlash

Donald Trump in court

Full jury of 12 and six alternatives selected in Donald Trump hush money trial

Trump Hush Money

Police to review security at Trump courthouse after man sets himself on fire

Donald Trump

Trump’s hush money case to go ahead after judge rejects latest bid to delay

Mark Menzies

Police reviewing claims Tory MP Mark Menzies misused campaign funds to 'pay off bad people'

Trump Hush Money

Man in critical condition after setting himself on fire outside Trump courthouse

Paramedics attended to a person who lit themselves on fire near Manhattan Criminal Court

Horror as man sets himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York

Jonathan Hogg was attacked by the xl bully (stock image) in Leigh.

Father, 37, mauled to death by XL Bully had 'worst injuries doctor had seen' from 15-minute attack

Iran Mideast Tensions

Israel and Iran play down apparent Israeli air strike near nuclear site

France Iran

Police in Paris detain man wearing fake explosives vest at Iranian consulate

Pakistan Suicide Attack

Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing in Pakistan

An Iranian journalist has said working in the UK is a huge risk.

London is our warzone: Iranian journalist says working in UK is huge risk as ex-minister suggests cutting ties

India Election Narendra Modi

India starts voting as Narendra Modi seeks third term as prime minister