It is not in the community's interest to have people leave prison without a chance to be skilled and have the chance to break the poverty and crime cycle that has put them in there in the first place. That was the message delivered by Federation President Maurie Mulheron at a public forum at NSW Parliament House on Tuesday night.
Mr Mulheron said Federation would not tolerate the government's decision to abolish 138 of the 158 qualified teacher positions in gaols, re-classifying some of these jobs as clerical and opening up prison education to private providers.
"What we really need is leadership at all levels of Corrective Services…we need people who, as a matter of principle, to turn back bad government policy not just simply implement it," he said.
"We're gaoling people at a faster rate than ever and we're building more prisons and at the time that we're doing that, knowing that the one factor that could possibly break the cycle of poverty and crime… is high quality education services provided by qualified teachers," he also said.
"The professional, qualified teaching workforce is very important because they are also advocates for our inmates," he said.
"No clerical or software program is going to be able to do that relationship building that teachers do. No-one.
"I'm not going to be convinced by anyone that a private company or outsourcing or a group of clerical people sitting at a laptop can do the assessing of people — it's just won't happen," he added.
Mr Mulheron said it was "morally repugnant that people would invest in companies that make a profit out of incarcerating people, including making a buck out of sending people in to deliver educational services…because the mentality is to keep people in prison because that is your business model."
"The business model is not to reduce the number of prisoners, but to maintain it."
The prisoner education forum was hosted by the Community Justice Coalition and the International Commission of Jurists. It was broadcast by Federation via Facebook Live, and the video can be viewed here. Mr. Mulheron’s speech begins at 45:15.
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