Friday, February 12, 2010

The RSA Report - 'The Learning Prison'

How refreshing it was to read the RSA's latest report - 'The Learning Prison' - see via Comment & Opinion on the right of this Blog.

Launched today, the report has brought together a wide ranging set of principles aimed at promoting increasing debate, re-enforcing what many practitioners have been saying over the last decade, there is a need for massive change if we are to ensure the delivery of meaningful re-habilitation in our prisons. This is a 'must read' for all those with an interest in promoting change and reform in our justice and prison system.

Whilst acknowledging some recent advances in offender learning and skills, the report goes on to promote the need for a more “common sense” approach, suggesting that prisons could do much more to promote reform and increase levels of rehabilitation. Importantly, it suggests that considerable political courage is needed to secure public support and to complement the willingness of practitioners to innovate and deliver programmes of rehabilitation; they simply need to be empowered to do so.

To tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you will be amazed at the results

The report rightly identifies that creating an environment where effective personalised learning can take place requires incentivisation, flexibility, imagination, understanding and a change in relationships on the part of all those involved. For this to happen we need truly inspirational and dynamic leadership not simply management.

Management maintains the status quo and focuses on objectives.

Management plans, controls and organizes, thereby solving problems,
delivering outcomes and targets

Leadership is about vision, direction and ‘change’.

Leadership aligns, empowers and motivates through inspiration.

Let us hope that the incoming Government will indeed demonstrate the necessary leadership and vision to meet the requirement. Unless provided, we will simply continue to waste vast sums of money and human lives.

Of particular interest to me is the RSA proposal for A Centre for Rehabilitation and Crime Reduction (CRCR). In 2000 colleagues and I established a charity in Devon called the Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation (C-FAR). In so many ways C-FAR was similar in concept to that of the CRCR. Operational for 5 years C-FAR demonstrated many positive outcomes and reduced re-offending by 40%. Regrettably, owing to a lack of CJS funding support, the charity was eventually forced to close. I recall a senior Probation Officer told me that I had to accept, C-FAR was simply 5 years ahead of the game and that for many different reasons, the system was not ready for such a concept. As I listen to the current debate and conclusions of reports such as 'The Learning Prison', it is heartening to see that he was possibly right.

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