Report from the European Prison Education Association
Behan, Cormac, Journal of Correctional Education
Learning for Liberation: 11th European Prison Education Association International Conference, Dublin 2007
The main activity of the European Prison Education Association since the last edition of the Journal was the nth European Prison Education Association International Conference which took place in Dublin, Ireland from 13th to 17th June. The conference, Learning for Liberation was the largest EPEA conference to date with 180 participants from over thirty countries. We were particularly happy to have many delegates who were attending for their first time and from countries that were not previously represented at EPEA conferences. We welcomed delegates from as far apart as Russia to Australia and from Canada to Israel. The CEA was particularly well represented with a number of Executive Board members led by CEA President Dr. Owen Modeland and Executive Director Dr. Steve Steurer.
The conference was opened by EPEA chairperson, Dr. Anne Costelloe. Dr. Costelloe's address will resonate with many correctional educators through-out the world. She suggested that since the last conference in Sofia in 2005:
... many of the trends in prison policy and tendencies in prison education that were emerging there have become even more evident now. In particular, I am referring to European-wide trends in penal discourse and political rhetoric that are promoting a 'hard-line' attitude to crime and punishment. It would seem to me that the 'get tough on crime' and 'lock 'em up' discourse has become even more entrenched in our public psyche and is thus given central stage on political agendas. As educators, this can be very disheartening because such rhetoric fuels the public perception that we must build more prisons, put more people in them, and then tighten the regimes within which we operate.
Of course, when it becomes accepted as common sense and justified to imprison more people, increase the length of sentences, reduce the amount of temporary release options, restrict access to open prisons and alternative programmes etc. When that tightening becomes accepted, the next question, is what do we do with them all now that we have locked them all up? Unfortunately, it would seem to me, that In answer to that question, prison education is finding it Increasingly difficult to have Its voice heard. Instead, options and regimes that emphasise 'programmes that seek to directly address offending behaviour' have become flavour of the month and de rigour. …