In-Prison Education

By Joseph Giordmaina

The Programme for Education in Prison of the University of Malta and the European Prison Education Association – Malta Branch organised a one-week training seminar entitled In-Prison Education for Rehabilitation and Resettlement.  Image courtesy www.facebook.com

Home Affairs and National Security Minister Emmanuel Mallia inaugurated the event. He spoke about his vision of the prison, particularly the role of the prison as a correctional facility, a process of incarceration after which the inmate should be reformed. The minister expressed his concern on the number of ex-inmates who return to prison time and time again. This in itself reflects badly on the success rate of reintegration into society.

The minister spoke of his idea to appoint a director of education at CCF, highlighting his ambition to make education and rehabilitation two of the main purposes of incarceration. This theme was further explored by the main invited speakers.

The themes discussed were rehabilitation and resettlement, formal and informal education, virtual learning platforms in prisons, employment after release and the role of the prison as a positive learning environment.

All agreed that we are now in a position to know what really works in prison, basic of which is the need to involve the prison inmate in the design of one’s sentence plan. This is possible only if an accurate assessment of his/her needs is made.

Education programmes in prison need to be tailor-made for such individual needs. This plan and its execution have to be implemented by professional practitioners who are trained to work in a prison environment. The approach has to be holistic and well sequenced.

Most importantly, the approach in countries where education and reintegration are a success is to work within prison (and also with agencies outside prison) as a team. Piecemeal initiatives by various sectors within the prison without a joint effort never work.

Lastly, throughout the conference, it was always stressed that the services being offered in prison should be monitored to ensure a service high in quality, efficiency and effectiveness.

The group had the opportunity to spend half a day at Corradino Correction Facility. Here, they could see for themselves the kind of services our prison offers, talk with inmates and see prison cells.

The group was hosted by the director of the prison who explained the workings of the prison, both on the level of education and rehabilitation as well as on an organisational level. This was done within a historical overview of the prison and a visit to the gallows section followed by a visit to the education centre showed the radical way prison philosophy has changed. The spiritual element inside the prison was highlighted during a visit to the prison’s church.

The week of activities was partly funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme and managers from CCF, University students and about 40 educators, psychologists, social workers and administrators of rehabilitation in prisons from 14 European countries participated.

This is the fourth year running that this event has been organised and the team is looking forward to another successful meeting next year.

(First published by The Times of Malta and used here by permission)