Treasure in the hearts of man

Here are a few highlights from Michael Gove’s speech today at a Prisoner Learning Alliance event. The full speech is available here, but the following extracts should give you a good flavour of what he spoke about:

  • Our current prison estate is out-of-date, overcrowded and in far too many cases, insanitary and inadequate.
  • Unless offenders are kept safe and secure, in decent surroundings, free from violence, disorder and drugs, then we cannot begin to prepare them for a better, more moral, life.
  • People go to prison because they have made bad choices. It should not surprise us that young people who grow up in circumstances where the moral reinforcement the rest of us enjoy is absent are more likely to make bad choices.
  • Prison is a place where people are sent as a punishment, not for further punishments. And if we ensure that prisons are calm, orderly, purposeful places where offenders can learn the self-discipline, the skills and the habits which will prepare them for outside life then we can all benefit.
  • Getting poorly-educated adults to a basic level of literacy and numeracy is straightforward, if tried and tested teaching models are followed, as the armed forces have demonstrated. So the failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible.
  • I am attracted to the idea of earned release for those offenders who make a commitment to serious educational activity, who show by their changed attitude that they wish to contribute to society and who work hard to acquire proper qualifications which are externally validated and respected by employers.
  • At the moment I fear that one of the biggest brakes on progress in our prisons is the lack of operational autonomy and genuine independence enjoyed by Governors.
  • I am open to good ideas – from wherever they come – which will help us improve our prisons.
  • Our streets will not be safer, our children will not be properly protected and our future will not be more secure unless we change the way we treat offenders and offenders then change their lives for the better. There is a treasure, if only you can find it, in the heart of every man, said Churchill. It is in that spirit we will work.