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CEA President Participates in Australasian CEA Conference
Date: January 13, 2018 02:59PM

CEA President Participates in Australasian CEA Conference

In early October, I had the opportunity to attend the 13th Biennial Australasian Corrections Education Association (ACEA) Conference in Canberra, Australia. Three correctional education associations represented by North America, Europe and Australia, came together at the conference to discuss common issues and how our organizations can better collaborate in the future.

The conference kicked-off with keynote speaker Jan-Erik Sandlie, Deputy Director General in the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service (NCS). Jan-Erik shared how NCS focuses on punishment that works which leads to lesser crime and a safer society. NCS moved to a 2-year, prison officer training that includes courses in psychology, sociology, criminology law, ethics and conflict management. The potential officers receive a salary during this training, which is at no cost. If the prison officer extends into a third year, they are awarded a bachelor’s degree in corrections. NCS believes officers with a comprehensive training experience leads to a more positive work environment and a better understanding of assimilating offenders.

The philosophy of NCS is to treat sentenced offenders the same as people on the outside — treat them with respect and keep their support systems nearby. In other words, family isn’t hours away but close enough to visit on a regular, if not daily, basis. In supporting the philosophy, electronic monitoring is sentenced for most low risk offenders. In 2007, Norway’s recidivism rate was 20% and Sweden’s was 30%. Obviously, it is working!

Annet Bakker, Chair of the European Prison Education Association (EPEA), shared the Associations strategic plan, which includes four key elements; 1) promoting education in prison, 2) providing value for members, 3) developing and growing as an organization, and 4) structure of the organization. (I believe EPEA mirrors CEA in their strategic philosophies!) EPEA focuses on five special interest groups —university involvement in prison education; juvenile prisoners; women in prisons; foreign nationals in prison; and long-term prisoners. Foreign nationals make up 44% of the prison population, which isn’t hard to believe considering there are 50 European countries with the smallest country being 0.77 square miles (Monaco) and the smallest U.S. state being 1045 square miles (Rhode Island).

Annet shared information on The National Day of Education in Prison, which is held every October 13. Educational activities obtain a new resonance for correctional institutions on that day, highlighting the importance of society`s involvment in correctional education. This is one event the three associations wish to collaborate on in the future.

During my keynote presentation, I spoke about our association and shared the similarities between the organizations. I also did some comparisons amongst the countries. The United States is vastly different than Norway. Their crime is going down, sentences are shorter, prisons are smaller and there is no overcrowding. Norway’s prison population is only 4500. I believe the change in their philosophy plays a big part in this.

The population in Australia is 24,168,303 with a prison population of 40,577, which means they incarcerate approximately 208 people per 100,000. The population in the United States is 323,000,000 with a prison population of 2.3 million, which means we incarcerate 716 people per 100,000. Australia is seeing a rapid increase in the number of women going to prison, which the United States experienced in the 1980’s. Along with the women’s population increasing so is the Aboriginal Australians. So, knowing all of this, what can make a difference? Of course, everyone was in agreement that the answer is education (including NCS educating their prison officers). The 2013 RAND Corporation study was mentioned often and the importance of future studies similar to this one. The three associations hope to work together in the future in order to collaborate on such studies.

The other commonality for all the countries was getting and permitting technology in correctional settings. We all know the Internet is becoming more and more the venue on accessing edcuational materials and platforms. Getting past the security concerns and issues was a common thread among the countries.

Collaborating internationally is where we want to go. My hope is to continue reaching out to ACEA and EPEA in order to strengthen correctional education.

With a new year, let’s think positively and move progressively! Happy New Year!
by: Peggy Meyers, CEA President

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