Letter: Privatisation and efficiency in the prison service

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on law and order privatisation (24 August) hit a timely note for lecturers working in the prison education service. On Friday the Home Office issued notices of competitive tender for the education service, opening it up to all comers.

As your report indicates, this move has little to do with rational provision of the service and everything to do with an ideologically inspired belief that 'private is best'. It is a contention that, in the hyper-sensitive area of prison life, must surely be open to question.

Prison education plays a vital role in prison life. To reduce it to a crude notion of 'market testing' is to undervalue the importance of education in promoting rehabilitation and humanising the prison experience.

The Council of Europe stresses that education for prisoners should be at least of the quality of good adult education in society. The main providers of post-school education in the community are further education colleges, and prison education provided through the colleges offers compatibility, quality and the benefit of experienced and sensitive staff.

The Home Office announcement on competitive tendering has meant many staff are now working under the threat of redundancy or non-renewal of contract. While logic dictates that further education colleges are the best providers of high quality prison education, staff in the service are facing disruption, turmoil, and serious loss of morale. It seems a curious way to promote 'efficiency' in the prison service.

Yours sincerely,

GEOFF WOOLF

General Secretary

National Association of Teachers

in Further and Higher Education

London, WC1

25 August

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