The Emergence of the European Prison Education Association, EPEA, by Torfinn Langelid, Kaj Raundrup, Svenolov Svensson and Kevin Warner

(Halden Prison Publishing House, 2021)

Although conceived in 1989, the EPEA was really an organisation which emerged over several years. This new book charts that development and indeed earlier efforts, from the 1970s in particular, to promote international co-operation around education in prison. The aims of the EPEA have long been to promote opportunities for learning for everyone in prison and to support prison educators through European co-operation.

The book teases out the thinking and values around both penal policy and adult education that helped shape the EPEA, an outlook associated especially with the Council of Europe. It is striking how the human rights based and humane philosophy of the Council of Europe was strongly held by many Director Generals and others in leadership in prison systems in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, and how crucial these prison leaders were to the formation of the EPEA. The authors show how they as much as educators advocated education as a human right for all, and an opportunity for personal development rather than an instrument for so-called ‘rehabilitation’.

Europe has changed greatly since the inception of the EPEA in 1989 and the EPEA has been carried on the tide of that change. The main EPEA conferences every two years have been noted for their atmospheres of learning, mutual support and encouragement, especially for those ‘working on the ground’ in many kinds of penal institutions. These major events brought people together from across a continent where many barriers had been removed – east and west, north and south – with many also from other parts of the world. As the story of Europe continues to evolve, the need for the EPEA and its capacity to bring people together from all corners, while adhering to the best of European values, is as strong as ever.

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