A petition signed by 14,000 people asking the NSW Government to reverse its decision to axe 80 percent of the state’s prison education staff will go to Parliament this Thursday.
The NSW Government is set to outsource inmate education and training to specialist training organisations by early 2017.
All but 20 of the current 152 teaching positions will be cut, with some to be replaced by clerical staff.
Under the changes, the 9.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions at Cessnock jail will be replaced by four clerical positions.
Cessnock Correctional Centre’s NSW Teachers Federation representative Michael Falcioni said the numbers of teaching hours outlined in the tender documents didn’t correlate with the proposed outcomes.
“The government has stated it will double literacy and numeracy and increase vocational training by 20 percent,” he said.
“How can this be achieved when they are reducing vocational hours by 73 per cent and reducing literacy-numeracy by 20 per cent?”
Corrections minister David Elliott said the reforms would “more than double” the number of inmates completing literacy and numeracy courses.
Mr Elliott said a review of the current education model showed it “does not meet demand, nor achieve the desired outcomes”, and that “specialist education and training organisations would be more effective than Corrective Services in providing most of these services”.
Mr Falcioni said the cuts would “devastate” vocational training at Cessnock Correctional Centre.
“These documents show they are asking the provider to run up to 20 vocational programs at Cessnock with only 300 hours,” he said.
“This is just not feasible.
“The result will be less educational outcomes and higher rates of recidivism.”
Mr Falcioni said he was astounded by the amount of support shown for the teachers across the state.
Shadow minister for corrections Guy Zangari submitted the petition to the NSW Parliament.
“Teachers working inside correctional centres know first-hand the importance of providing inmates with quality education and the skills they will need on the outside in order to reduce reoffending,” Mr Zangari said.
“Any reduction in the quality of educational programs in prisons increases the risk of inmates reoffending as they struggle to get a job upon release.”