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This represents a reaffirmation of UNESCO’s goal of basic education for all adults, as affirmed in the 1985 Adult Education Conference and the 1990 Jomtien Conference on Education for All. The 1997 conference presented, to the world, UNESCO’s commitment to promoting adult/prison education but, prior to this conference, there were other initiatives by UNESCO to promote this kind of education. This section seeks to highlight these initiatives.

In 1990, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) recommended that all prisoners should have access to education, including basic education; literacy programmes; vocational training; creative, religious, and cultural activities; social education; and libraries. At the same time, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) was urged to provide funding for the development of a manual on prison education that would act as a guiding force for states in reforming their prison systems. This objective was achieved in 1991. The UNESCO Institute for Education, the specialised agency which deals with research and development in adult education and continuing studies, was requested to investigate and promote basic education in prisons. This corresponded with the goal of ECOSOC and work began on the manual. The manual was completed and printed in 1995 after intensive investigations of various prison systems, and with the assistance of various organisations. It became what it was intended to be; a guiding force to states.

Contributions to the Caribbean

UNESCO’s avid interest in promoting world-wide and universal access to education, and its commitment to the UN’s Culture of Peace, resulted in the organisation recommitting itself to the promotion of education in the penal systems across the islands of the region. This commitment was publicly launched with the 1998 workshop held in Jamaica. The following Caribbean countries participated: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Curaçao, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. This event was intended to promote change in the culture of correctional institutions; to enable them to become more peaceful milieus; and prepare inmates for productive, peace-enhancing roles on their release. The workshop had four major objectives:

  • To share information on prison reform in seven countries of the Caribbean subregion.

  • To consider and prepare a five-phase project on prison reforms for national and regional adaptation.

  • To orient representatives of senior correctional staff of seven countries to Module one of the proposed prison reform project, that is, the self-development module for both staff and inmates of correctional institutions.

  • To have senior staff make recommendations on this issue.

  • To brief relevant shareholders, support groups, and the media on the goals of the prison reform projects.

The following are some of the recommendations of the workshop:

  • Mounting more workshops of this nature.

  • Holding regional conferences of Commissioners, Superintendents, and senior administrators to discuss the formation of the various regional policies.

  • Formation of associations of Commissioners, staff, and chaplains of correctional institutions.

  • Participation of the region in a correctional staff, middle managers’ training programme, organised by the Barbados Correctional Service and sponsored by the British Government.

  • Networking of correctional institutions to facilitate exchanges of expertise and ideas.


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