Education in prison 'can cut reoffending rate'

Published on Friday, 10 January 2014 09:43
Written by Daniel Mason

New government research published yesterday proves that studying a wide range of courses in prison makes people less likely to reoffend when they are released.

The rigorous report sampled over 3,000 prisoners who had been funded by the charity Prisoners Education Trust to study distance learning courses in prison and found a reduction in reoffending when compared with similar prisoners.

The results are published by the Ministry of Justice's Data Lab alongside analysis of the effectiveness of several organisations and PET is the only intervention exclusively in custody shown to have had a statistically significant reduction.

Figures show that the one-year reoffending rate for prisoners who received PET's support was over a quarter lower at 19 per cent compared to 26 per cent for the matched group; and the average frequency of proven one year re-offences was 0.5 per individual compared to 0.8 for the matched group, a reduction of almost two fifths.

The report states: "This analysis shows that participating in an intervention provided by Prisoners Education Trust led to a reduction in re-offending of between 5 and 8 percentage points."

Rod Clark, PET's chief executive, said: "With 25 years' experience of helping prisoners to change their lives through education, our charity and our funders know that learning in prison works – but now we have the evidence to prove it with this robust, hard-edged report carried out by MoJ statisticians.

"The government has repeatedly said that it will back what works to reduce reoffending and this research makes a strong case for more effort to support prison education.

"A reduction of five to eight percentage points may not sound like much but with the cost of crime committed by repeat offenders estimated at up to £13bn it makes a huge difference both to society and victims. Courses we fund typically cost approximately £250 a piece, which is a minor amount when set against nearly £37,000 in the annual average costs of a prison place.

"Giving prisoners opportunities to use their time constructively in prison to develop their thinking and employment skills through self-directed learning is vital if we want to stop people falling back into a life of crime when they leave.

"With the right support from the prison system and with a bit of extra money we could do a whole lot more to reduce crime and prevent people from becoming victims."

Statisticians researched whether the group had reoffended in the year after release and if so, what the frequency of their offending was using data from the Police National Computer. This was then compared with a group who were not supported by the charity, but have the same overall characteristics.

The report's sample included people funded by PET to study different courses ranging from Open University degrees to vocational courses and recipients of art and hobby materials. Specific analysis for some of these course groups demonstrates conclusively that Open University courses, creative learning and some further education all had a positive effect in reducing reoffending.

Source: Prisoners' Education Trust

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