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Prisons: Northern Ireland

Volume 704: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prisoners in Northern Ireland are classified as educationally retarded; and what are the classifications used; and [HL5597]

What steps they take to ensure that prisoners in Northern Ireland who are educationally retarded do not re-offend. [HL5598]

Those committed to prison in Northern Ireland are assessed by prison education departments to ascertain literacy and numeracy standards, using classifications set by the Department of Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland). Level one broadly equates to Grades D-G in GCSE and is considered to be the basic level necessary for adults. Over 70 per cent of those entering prison are assessed as falling below level one in literacy and over 80 per cent as falling below level one in numeracy.

All prisoners have access to education. Although this is not mandatory, all those who have low levels of literacy and numeracy are actively encouraged to develop their skills and many do so. For example, 71 prisoners in Maghaberry have achieved level one in literacy and 65 in numeracy since the beginning of April 2008.

Developing literacy and numeracy also helps prisoners better to access the wide range of programmes designed to assist in resettlement and reduce the risk of re-offending.