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Prison Learning Network – Rehabilitation for a sustainable society

Until very recently, the achievements of those involved in developing offender learning and skills have received little mainstream recognition. While many welfare-led initiatives by prison staff and criminal justice professionals are producing significant and positive results, overcrowding and the severity of sentencing have tended to dominate public discussion.

The Prison Learning Network aims to help front-line specialists to spread good practice, expand successful projects and develop public support through a compelling, evidence-based narrative.

Since its launch in March 2008, the Prison Learning Network has sought to champion the wealth of talent, experience and innovation that already exists within the prison system and explore methods for providing the real-world tools prisoners need for a productive life beyond prison. Its initial findings were presented in the 2010 report, The Learning Prison.

Working with an Advisory Board led by senior prison staff and education providers and with experts drawn from academia and non-governmental organisations, the Network has engaged with numerous projects including: an organic prison restaurant and garden, providing opportunities for prisoners to gain catering qualifications and experience; a widely-adopted literacy scheme to empower prisoners lacking essential life skills; and an operational prison radio station providing production, broadcasting and communications technology training.

To build on the existing collaboration of stakeholders such as the prison service, probation service and Learning and Skills Council, we will work to provide effective ways for key players to: 

  • Build a coalition of interest and expertise for stakeholders to draw upon; 
  • Draw upon relevant experience and expertise from outside the prison and probation services; 
  • Share ideas and evidence of good practice in learning, skills and employment provision; 
  • Create new and build on existing networks focused on partnerships and shared learning; 
  • Be a positive example of wider community engagement, and
  • Influence policy makers and mobilise public support.