Learning to Fail? Prisoners with Special Educational Needs

Alana Barton, Anita Hobson

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This article represents a thought piece reflecting on the interplay between schooling, social exclusion and prison for those with special educational needs and its aims are two-fold. First, to outline some of the concerns around incarcerated young people and adults who fall into this category. We will provide some definitional parameters and, whilst acknowledging the, often, obfuscatory effects of official classifications, draw on these to outline the proportion of the prison population who are affected by these challenges. Second, we will examine the role of education both within the prison and in schools, arguing that for young people with SENs the school can represent the start of a ‘pipeline’ to prison. ‘Schooling’, that is to say, is a part of the problem. Consequently, the presentation of current forms of prison education as a panacea to problems that, for many, began with education is, at best, unrealistic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-10
JournalPrison Service Journal
Issue number232
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jul 2017


  • Prison
  • special educational needs


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