Thursday, 16 January 2014

The importance of education for offenders

Here at NEC we have a long and rich tradition of supporting learners from many different backgrounds, in many different circumstances. Our work has frequently shown us just how big a difference a second chance to learn can make to someone’s life, but for some students in particular, our work helps to ensure they get a second chance in more ways than one.

Distance learning can help to overcome many barriers to education, but you may not realise it is even flexible enough to enable us to deliver courses to learners who are serving custodial sentences while they study. For many years, NEC has worked with the Prisoners Education Trust (PET) to broaden educational opportunities for prisoners. Learners have a wide variety of courses to choose from, including those leading to recognised qualifications such as GCSEs and A levels, which help to enhance their chances of building a better life after release.

The importance of PET’s work in helping to rehabilitate prisoners through education was highlighted by the BBC last Autumn in their article about Frank Harris, a learner who had previously been in and out of prison for 30 years of his life, but now spends his time helping others to find their way out of crime through education–just as he did with PET. Frank’s story is a testament to the power that education has to bring about great positive change.

The Ministry of Justice has also recently published the results from research into how PET’s funding grants to enable offenders to study while in prison has affected their chances of re-offending. The results show that out of 3085 offenders who received help through PET, the re-offending rate was just 19%, compared to 26% of a matched control group who did not study courses through PET.

Additionally, among the 3085 who studied through PET, the frequency of one year proven re-offending was 0.5 offences per individual. Among the control group who did not, the frequency was 0.8 per individual.

All in all, this means that those who participated in education through PET showed a reduction in re-offending of between 5 and 8 percentage points. It’s an encouraging sign.

In a press release, PET welcomed the results of the research. Chief Executive Rod Clark 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.”

NEC is committed to continuing our partnership with PET, to help ensure that prisoners like Frank Harris can find second chances through education and not fall back into crime. Reflecting on the results of the recent Government study, PET had this to say about their partnership with us:

“The Prisoners Education Trust has enjoyed a longstanding and fruitful relationship with the National Extension College. For many years, NEC has helped PET to provide high-quality distance learning courses for prisoners across England and Wales. Recent Government research has shown just how successful distance learning in prison can be in helping to prevent re-offending on release. The NEC staff understand the difficulties involved in delivering distance learning in prisons, and they have always shown a willingness to adapt in order to support learners in prison.”

To learn more about PET’s work with prisoners, visit their website for further information. You can also read a PDF copy of the Ministry of Justice’s report by clicking here.

To find out about the wide range of distance learning courses we offer, visit our website. You can keep up with all the latest NEC news and events by subscribing to our email newsletter or following our blog. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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