Webinar series on Education in Prison of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning UIL

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Since February 2021, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning has organised 6 webinars on topics related to education in the prison. The last two panels will take place on April 28th on “Le collectif Art Entr’elles et l’employabilité des femmes judiciarisées” (in French, with simultaneous interpretation in English) and on 26 May on “Les impacts de l’éducation en prison et les expériences d’un ancien détenu” (in French, with simultaneous interpretation in English), both panels are held from 16.00 – 17.30 CEST. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required.

Link to registration: https://www.cmv-educare.com/en/activities/webinars-2/         
On this website you can also find the presentations and videos of the webinars that have already been held.

The first webinar dealt with «How Prison Libraries Support Rehabilitation Efforts». This webinar provided a global overview of the possible impact and transformational potential of providing prison library services and reading-based activities to inmates. Having free access to relevant resources is crucial for prisoners’ personal development, well-being and, ultimately, rehabilitation. The examples presented from around the world showed the ways in which prison libraries and literacy services provided by community organizations can play an important role in furthering prisoners’ education, and on minimizing the negative impact of incarceration on families.

The issue of the second panel was «The Prisoner Learning Academic Network» (PLAN). The PLAN is a hub for researchers and practitioners who work on issues relating to prisoner learning. The objective of PLAN is to raise the profile, quality and impact of all levels of prison education, by promoting research and supporting networking. It aims to achieve this by helping to share research, connect researchers across disciplines and support service users and practitioners to apply research and contribute to evidence. In relevance to prison education, the contribution of Cormac Behan, from TU Dublin and also President of the EPEA, on the subject of «Prison Education and Citizenship» was very inspiring and fundamental. To conclude, he quoted Anne Costelloe, former member of the EPEA Steering Committee too: «This is why simply placing civic and citizenship classes at the core of the prison curriculum is not enough. And of course, simply promoting and providing a citizenship forum is not enough either. To make citizenship education more meaningful and educative, to ensure it is a learning process rather than just a learning practice, prison education must be grounded in an ideology that is focused less on enabling prisoners know their place in society and more on enabling them to re-conceptualise their place in society.»

The third Webinar had “Prison Teachers in France : Intersecting Views” as its theme. Little is known about teachers in prison in France today. As they do not generate interest among researchers, there is limited data to characterize them. This round table aimed at correcting this lack of knowledge and recognition by proposing a crossover of views and insights : those of the person responsible for prison education at the national level, a prison teacher, and a researcher. This provided an opportunity to question the relevance of describing and defining a prison teaching status. The contribution of Catherine Le Faou, teacher and local head of education at the Poissy detention centre, Paris regional teaching unit, gave a unique insight. As she is in charge of recruiting new teachers in prison education she presented three excluding criteria. «Profiles that are discarded: a) Those who want to save the world: they are advised to become a prison visitor or volunteer for an association; b) Those who reject the prison system: we need to have respect for colleagues in the prison administration; c) Those who are excessively curious/ empathetic/ lack distance: we are teachers, we have to be clear about our professional position.»

In the latest panel «Education in a Prison Setting and Juvenile Experiences» in Mexico and Spain were discussed. The criminalization of lower-class youths and its stigmatization in public opinion and in the media have led to a tightening of social demands of this public opinion. The call for imprisonment rests on a vision of young people as criminals, lack of knowledge of the socio-economic and family contexts in which they grew up and which have shaped their identity, even going so far as to blur their humanity. The speakers proposed to approach the living conditions in detention from a cross-sectoral perspective. This allowed to focus on the impact of education in prison, on youth experiences with regard to the right to education in prison and on education as a condition that gives meaning to punitive imprisonment.

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