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Outside the curriculum: Informal learning in prison.

Scurrah, Miriam
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Australia and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference 2009: Conference Proceedings. Pg. 194-204.

This article reflects on two key questions about the informal learning that prisoners engage in whilst incarcerated. Firstly,
what do prisoners learn outside of the formal prison curriculum and secondly how can informal learning be enhanced within
the prison environment? It is possible that prisons are a school for crime and that they damage to a greater degree than
they heal (Abramsky 2001). If this is the case it is probable that the ‘school for crime’ occurs as informal learning within the
prison environment and that the damage is as a result of a combination of social acculturation, informal learning and a lack
of rehabilitation. It is for this reason that informal learning, which is difficult to distinguish from social acculturation
(Livingstone 2001), warrants attention from the community and those concerned with the prison system. Data was
gathered from semi structured interviews with fourteen staff and four prisoners and ex-prisoners within a regional prison in
Australia. The research found that prisoners value positive and motivational informal learning which can be enhanced by
staff working as mentors and the creation of a learning environment throughout the prison. Informal learning can be
assisted by the development of positive peer programs and by ensuring staff have the time and resources needed to engage
with individuals. (Authors abstract)


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