The Open College of the Arts works with the Prisoners’ Education Trust to enable students in prison to access our courses. It is an important part of our charitable purpose and student fees are met by a combination of OCA bursaries and grants from the Trust. As this work is largely invisible to other students (and indeed to some of our tutors) we thought it would be worth talking to Pat Jones, Chief Executive of the Trust, about why this work is important.
These are interesting times for prison education in England. The pressure on public spending would lead you to to expect that prison education would suffer. However, the frankly unexpected comments from the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke in July on the prison system do give grounds for optimism. Pat argues that art can be a way in, that people who see themselves as offenders can forge an new identity through art. This is an argument which convinces me. The alternative doesn’t really bear contemplation – the UK prison population has already doubled in a generation.
Our second video is of Akiel Chinelo, who reflects on his experience of prison and reads two extracts from his work. Some people may be surprised at his observation that prison provides the means to shut the rest of the world out, and possibly angered at the notion of prison as an opportunity. But if prison isn’t to be an opportunity, what possible hope is there for rehabilitation?
[Akiel is currently working on a novel through the Writing 3: Advanced course]