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What keeps prisoners from learning?

16th February 2010

Article written by Louise Tickle 16th Feb 2010

A young offender recounts how there were no courses that interested him while in prison and there was no support from family or prison staff to pursue any of these opportunities.  

This man’s future looks bleak with no qualifications to show employers and unable to train in the construction field as he would loose his jobseekers allowance what opportunities have been given to him.

More than 50% of male offenders and 71% of female offenders have no qualifications. Nearly half have literacy skills at or below level 1 and 65% have numeracy skills at or below level 1. It is hardly surprising, then, that finding employment on release is difficult: 67% of offenders were unemployed when they went to prison and more than three-quarters had no job to go to when they got out.

Prisoners serving short sentences are those with the lowest educational levels, a problem known as ‘churn’ occurs, where prisoners are regularly transferred between prisons. Therefore their ability to even start let alone complete a course is slim. According to the National Audit Office, a third of courses started in prison are not completed, half of these as a direct result of prisoner transfer. The cost of that wastage comes to £30m a year.

As this prisoner explains studying is seen as week within the prison régime, Gordon Marsden MP, who co-chaired the National Skills Forum inquiry, says there must be a culture change in jails, and outside, to encourage prisoners to pursue educational goals.

Focusing on education for people who are in and out of jail is perhaps not a vote winner. But, says Marsden, society cannot afford to neglect this group, "because the cost of looking after people in prison, compared to the cost of making them productive people, is a no-brainer."

   Article taken from guardian.co.uk click here for full article

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