Prison educators at more than seventy prisons and young offender institutions in England are on strike today (4 August) in response to an attempt by their employer to increase working hours and change pay scales. Campaigners say the plans will “jeopardise” prison education, which has a proven role in cutting reoffending.
The action has been called by the University and College Union (UCU) against The Manchester College (TMC), Britain's largest provider of prison courses. UCU says that the conditions proposed by TMC could see some staff lose as much as £7,000 per year.
But the union has welcomed the news that the coalition government is to hold a review of prison education as part of its reforms of the penal system. UCU says prison teaching staff must be treated fairly and be properly paid if the government is serious about tackling the problem of reoffending.
Over half of all crime in the UK is committed by people who have already been through the prison system. A report by the Social Exclusion Unit in 2002 found that “prisoners who do not take part in education are three times more likely to be reconvicted than those that do”.
The UCU President, Alan Whitaker, plans to address a rally at 12.00 noon at the Manchester Conference Centre Institute.
“Our members don’t want to take strike action, but they have been left with no choice,” he said, “It is deeply concerning that Britain’s largest prison education provider is trying to force through new contracts that will seriously jeopardise prison education in this country”.
He added, “The new contracts would mean fewer rehabilitation opportunities for offenders. UCU believes education must be at the heart of any reform of our prison system and the evidence backs us up.”
78 per cent of prison educators participating in a UCU ballot voted in favour of the strike. Only 11 per cent voted against taking any action at all.