This is a good article. Follow the link for more information.

Prison education

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Black and white image of several prisoners, mostly of African heritage, sitting at a desk and writing. There are bars on the windows.
A prison literacy class run for African Americans in New Orleans, 1937

Prison education is a broad term for educational activities inside prisons. Educational courses include basic literacy programs, high-school equivalency programs, vocational education and tertiary education. Prison education is typically provided, managed and funded by the prison system, though inmates may be required to pay for distance education programs, the history of and current practices in prison education vary greatly between different countries.

People entering prison systems worldwide have, on average, lower levels of education than the general population. Prison education aims to make the inmate more employable by improving their skills and education. Running and attending educational programs in prisons can be difficult. Staff and budget shortages, a lack of educational resources and computers and the transfer of prisoners between correctional facilities are common problems. Prisoners may be reluctant to participate, often due to past educational failures, embarrassment at their low literacy, or a lack of interest.

Studies consistently show that education in prison is an effective way of reducing the rates of recidivism, which saves the expense of future prison sentences; in the US, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on prison education, four to five dollars are saved by a decrease in recidivism. Despite the known benefits of prison education programs, rates of education within prisons remain low in many countries, and attempts to increase the rate of and funding for prison education have been opposed. Opponents argue that prison education is a waste of money and that prisoners do not deserve the right to be educated; in countries where tuition is paid by students, opponents may also argue that it is unfair for prisoners to have education funding when law-abiding citizens do not.



Sweden is considered to be a pioneer in prison education, it became mandatory for inmates in 1842, and vocational education can be traced back to at least 1874, when the Uppsala County prison hired a carpenter to teach inmates woodworking skills.[1] In Denmark, juvenile offenders have had access to education since the 1850s, and educational programs became mandatory for them in 1930. Adult prisons have had educational programs since 1866, and legislation requiring all inmates under the age of 30 to participate in educational courses was implemented in 1952.[2] Norway opened its first prison to focus on education as a form of rehabilitation in 1851.[3] By 1875, all eight prisons in the country were providing education to inmates,[4] and by the end of the century, legislation was in effect ensuring that any prisoner who had not completed primary and lower secondary schooling should do so while in prison,[3] as of 2007, every prison in Norway has a school for inmates.[4] In Finland, legislation was adopted in 1866 which ensured that all prisoners would receive primary education, though the implementation of the order faced practical difficulties. A more successful education reform was implemented in 1899, which remained unchanged until 1975.[5] Iceland, which as of 2011 averaged only 137 prisoners in the country,[6] began implementing education programs in 1971, the small size of prisons in Iceland, while having many advantages, makes running organised educational programs difficult, as the small number of inmates may have drastically different educational needs.[7]

The first significant development of prison education in England was Robert Peel's Parliamentary Gaol Act of 1823, which called for reading and writing classes in all prisons.[8] While prison staff in the 1850s recognised the importance of basic literacy, they opposed giving prisoners any form of higher education on the grounds that education itself would not provide any "moral elevation",[9] the Prison Act of 1877 is considered to have established the prison system that remained in effect until the 1990s, which only offered education of a "narrow and selective kind".[8] In 1928, the majority of prisons in the UK were still only offering the most basic education courses.[10] By 1958, while the number of educational staff in prisons had increased, there had been no other significant advancements in prison education, the situation was only considered to have changed in 1992, when the decision was made to outsource educational instruction on a competitive basis. More than 150 organisations applied, and by 1994, there were 45 educational providers across 125 prisons, providing various forms of education including secondary and tertiary.[8]

In 1918, the Soviet Union recommended that children in prison should receive education alongside punishment. However, few educational programmes were actually implemented, because of the competing agendas of various jurisdictions and agencies;[11] in the 1920s, efforts were made within the Gulag prison camps to eradicate illiteracy. Almost all the camps had classes on "political education", and some also had classes such as natural science, history of culture and foreign languages.[12]

North America[edit]

In the United States, secular prison education programs were run in the early 19th century with the intention of helping inmates to read Bibles and other religious texts distributed by visiting chaplains, the first major education program aimed at rehabilitating prisoners was launched in 1876.[13] Zebulon Brockway, the superintendent of Elmira Reformatory in New York, is credited as being the first person to implement such a program. He believed prison education would "discipline the mind and fit it to receive ... the thoughts and principles that constitute their possessors good citizens".[13] By 1900 the states of Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota had adopted the 'Elmira system' of education,[14] and by the 1930s educational programs could be found in most prisons.[13]

Tertiary education programs, however, did not appear until much later. In 1960, only nine states were offering college-level education to inmates; by 1983 such programs were available in most states.[13] Between 1972 and 1995, inmates in the US were able to apply for Pell Grants, a subsidy program run by the U.S. federal government that provides funding for students.[15] However, in 1994 Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which denies Pell Grants to anyone who is incarcerated.[16] As a result, by 2005 only about a dozen prisons were offering post-secondary education, compared to 350 in the early 1990s;[15] the number in New York dropped from 70 to four.[17] In 2015, President Barack Obama created a pilot program that allowed a limited number of inmates to receive Pell grants. More than 200 colleges in 47 states subsequently expressed interest in running educational programs for prisoners.[17]

The development of prison education within Canada has paralleled that of the US. Royal Commissions in 1914 and 1936 both recommended that work programs be replaced, at least to some extent, by rehabilitative programs including education.[13] However, education programs did not become commonplace until the mid 1940s.[13]


The first formal education program to be implemented in the Australian state of New South Wales was at Darlinghurst Gaol in 1862, when a schoolmaster was hired to provide elementary and moral education to any prisoner who wished to attend. Prior to this one of the prisoners had been providing educational lessons to other inmates.[18] By the early 1900s, basic literacy programs were commonplace throughout Australian prisons,[19] and by the 1950s, all major prisons in the country were offering some form of education and training programs, though no more than 15 to 20% of inmates at any given prison could participate in educational programs at one time,[20] the Senate Employment, Education and Training References Committee produced the Senate Report of the Inquiry into Education and Training in Correctional Facilities in 1996.[19] The report stated that the history of prison education in Australia "could fairly be described as a disgrace", with non-existent or poor facilities containing deficient and out-dated curricula and resources,[21] it made several recommendations on how to improve prison education, including the development of a national strategy. In 2001, a national strategy was launched, and by 2006, all states and territories were offering some form of tertiary education to inmates,[19] each state and territory, however, maintains control over its own prison education systems; there is no national system[19][22] leading to differences in the way education is offered. For example, inmates in the Australian Capital Territory have been able to have laptop computers in their cells for educational purposes since 2006, though as of 2017 this service is not available for inmates in New South Wales. Accordingly certain educational and rehabilitation programs that require a computer cannot be offered there.[23][24]

According to the New Zealand Annual Review of Education, the availability and quality of prison education in the country decreased significantly between 1959 and 2005, as government policy shifted from prisons focusing on rehabilitation to prisons focusing on punishment. A 2005 Ombudsman's report stated there were "low levels of rehabilitative and productive activities" for prisoners in New Zealand.[25]


It is universally known, that the cause of committing crime is the lack or moral and intellectual education. As the principle of a modern prison is to make prisoners repent and to make good citizens out of the ignorant, scandalous and weak, moral and intellectual education is indispensable.

Official prison brochure in China, c. 1930s.[26]

Prison education in Japan can be traced back to at least 1871, when practical ethics lectures were introduced into a prison in Tokyo,[27] and reading and writing classes began being implemented into the prison system on a larger scale by 1881. By the late 1880s, it was believed that ethics classes was the most important form of education for prisoners, and by the 1890s, prison education was considered one of the most important issues of the prison system. Conferences, mostly attended by prison staff, were held in 1889 and 1892 to discuss ways to improve education within the prison system. There was no unanimous agreement on the best way to implement moral education for prisoners, and different institutions began running their own individual programs,[28] as of 1910, prison law in Japan ordered education be given to all juvenile inmates, and to any adult inmate deemed to need it. Regulations stipulated two to four hours a day be set aside for education.[29]

Changes were made to prison system in China in the 1920s, following the establishment of the Republic of China. Following a criticism of the lack of education for inmates at the time, there was a shift in the prison system from focusing on religious and moral teachings to focusing on intellectual education and hard labour as the primary means of rehabilitation.[30] Authorities took considerable effort to develop an effective and diverse educational curriculum, as well as teaching literacy and arithmetic, classes also included music and composition, popular ethics, confucianism and patriotic and political doctrine; teaching party doctrine increase significantly in the 1930s.[31] In 1981, the People's Republic of China incorporated prison education into its national education program, significantly increasing the availability of education to inmates.[32]

Literacy rates and available programs[edit]

People in prison systems worldwide are consistently less educated than the general population; in a survey conducted in 2003, 53% of prisoners in Ireland were found to be ranked in the lowest category for literacy on the National Framework of Qualifications, compared to 23% of the general population.[33] A survey of German inmates in 2003–04 found that 85.8% had completed middle-school, compared with 97% of the general population. 51.7% had completed high-school, compared to 55.4% of the general population.[34] In the US, as of 2004, 65% of inmates had either a General Educational Development or high-school diploma, compared to 82% of the general population. Only 17% had tertiary education, compared to 51% of the general population,[35] as of 2006, only 14% of prisoners had completed Year Twelve, compared to 63% of the general population in Australia.[36] In the UK, as of 2010, 47% of inmates reported having no formal qualification compared to only 15% of the general population;[37] in New Zealand, 66% of inmates reported having no secondary or tertiary qualifications, compared to 23% of the general population in 2016.[38]

Prison education courses can range from basic literacy courses and high-school equivalency programs to vocational education and tertiary education programs. Non-formal activities that teach inmates new skills, like arts and crafts programs, may also be considered a form of education.[39] Likewise, some countries consider rehabilitation programs or physical education to be educational programs, whereas others will not.[40] Educational programs within prisons are typically funded by them, and may be run by the prisons themselves or contracted out to external providers.[39] Primary, secondary and vocational education is typically free, though some countries require inmates or their families to pay for correspondence courses. Out of 28 surveyed European countries in 2012, 15 reported offering free distance education to inmates, and 13 reported that inmates would have to pay all associated costs; in some cases, only certain courses were free; in Denmark, correspondence courses at primary and lower-secondary level are free, though a percentage of courses undertaken at a higher level must be paid for by the inmate.[40] Inmates in the UK are able to access the government student loans for university that are available to the general public,[40] as are those in Australia.[41] Charity groups, like the Prisoners' Education Trust in the UK, can accept applications for grants from prisoners who cannot afford to finance their distance education.[42] Prisons usually give inmates with lower rates of education and vocational skills higher priority for available places in educational classes.[39] Many prisons have mandated that educational programs should focus solely on basic literary skills, and do not offer any higher levels of education.[43][44]

In both Australia and the UK, prisoners on remand or in hospital are not eligible to undertake educational study,[43][45] nor are prisoners on remand in Poland.[46] Norway and Finland, however, do not house people on remand separately, and they are entitled to the same educational opportunities as regular prisoners; in Denmark and Sweden inmates on remand are entitled to some education programs, though less than those available to other prisoners.[47]


There are several barriers to both running and participating in educational programs in prisons. Prison teachers may be faced with the challenge of instructing a class that has a large variance in age, educational levels, or employment history.[48] Prisons consider security concerns more important than educational goals,[43][48][49] which restricts how some vocational trades are delivered because of concerns about prisoners manufacturing weapons.[50] There can be issues when inmates need to be transferred between different areas of the prison for educational purposes, for example, different groups of inmates are sometimes kept separated from each other for security reasons, which means if one group is using a walkway others may not be able to be moved through it. If prisons are on lockdown, inmates will be unable to attend classes; lockdowns can last for several weeks.[51]

There is a common perception that inmates have lots of free time; however, they may only be allocated extremely limited time to access educational resources.[51] Distance education courses are increasingly only being offered online, which presents a significant barrier as most countries do not permit inmates to access the internet.[43][52][53] Shortages of available places lead to significant waiting lists for enrollment in educational courses; in some cases inmates may not be able to access education because the waiting times are longer than their sentences.[19] Educating foreign inmates in prisons can also be challenging, due to language barriers.[33][54]

Sometimes study is just another added pressure. You're tearing your hair out because four hours a week is not enough time in the education room to keep up with all the assignments. I have to study on the floor too because there's no single cells. I'm thinking of just giving up. It's another stress you don't want to put on yourself in here.

Anonymous prisoner on the difficulties of studying in jail[51]

One of the biggest barriers to prison education is the frequent transfer of prisoners between correctional facilities.[43][51] Inmates may be moved to another facility at any time for a variety of reasons, such as overcrowding, a downgrade in security classification, court appearances or medical appointments.[21][43] Different prisons may have vastly different attitudes toward or access to education.[21][51] If an education course is run by the prison in-house, moving an enrollee to another prison will effectively force them to drop out.[21] Inmates studying correspondence courses will have to notify their course provider, usually by mail, of their change in circumstance and postal address, and will be reliant on the goodwill of both the course provider and the new prison's education officer to help them catch up on any missed work. If study materials are lost or misplaced in-transit inmates will have to reapply to education providers for replacements. Being moved between facilities is a major cause of inmates ceasing study at university level.[51]

Other hindrances to prison education are staff shortages,[43] a lack of educational resources in prison libraries,[39] a lack of audio-visual equipment and computers[48] (or simply a lack of access to them)[51], not having a suitable place to study (shared cells often do not have desks) and not having a suitable place for group work activities after classroom hours.[48] In-house educators may not have adequate training from the prison for their role,[43][48] and a prison may have difficulty finding external teachers willing to work for the rates of pay that prisons can offer.[55] Government departments charging each other for services may also present a barrier, for example, a state-owned prison's budget may not allow it to afford the fees set by a state-owned education provider.[22] Prison education programs may also face a lack of support or outright opposition from prison personnel where they are trying to operate,[34] for example, some prison staff, who are poorly educated themselves, may resent the inmates' educational opportunities.[56]

Prisoners themselves may be reluctant to participate in programs because of previous failures in education, embarrassment over their low literacy, lack of faith in their abilities or disinterest.[39] Foreign inmates who will be deported at the end of their sentence often do not have much incentive to learn the language of the country they are incarcerated in or obtain qualifications there.[33] Financial incentives also play a factor in an inmates decision to undertake education; in both the UK and Belgium, the allowance given to inmates who undertake study is lower than that given to inmates who undertake domestic work such as cleaning or food-preparation, which results in inmates having a stronger preference for domestic work. Inmates with children have a particular preference for employment over education in prison, as it enables them to send more money to their families.[33]

Reductions in recidivism[edit]

The recidivism rate among prisoners in the Western world is high, as of 2011, within three years of release, seven out of ten inmates in the US will have re-offended and half will be back in prison.[49] In Australia, 44.8% of prisoners released between 2014 and 2015 returned to prison within two years.[57] In England and Wales, 46% of people released from prison between April 2013 and March 2014 were re-incarcerated within 12 months.[58][59] Recidivism is also high in Latin America, with Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile all having rates above 40% as of 2014.[60] Ex-prisoners often face difficulty obtaining employment after their release, and this difficulty is strongly associated with re-offending. Prison education programs are intended to reduce recidivism by increasing an inmates' ability to be employed.[61][62] A study in the UK in 2002 found that gaining employment reduced a former prisoners chance of re-offending by at least a third,[33] and a meta-analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation, which completed a comprehensive literature search of studies released in the US between 1980 and 2011, found that participating in educational courses increased an inmates chances of being employed post-release by 13%.[62] Prison education also has therapeutic benefits such as alleviating boredom, improving self-esteem, stimulating creativity and improving communications skills, which have been linked to reductions in recidivism.[39][43][63][64] Educational programs have also been shown to reduce violence within prisons.[56][65]

In the US, there were very few studies on the relationship between educational programs and recidivism before the 1970s,[13] the first was done at Ohio Penitentiary in 1924, and examined 200 inmates who had completed correspondence programs. The results, which found that inmates in the program were more "successful" after release, established the first link in the US between prison education and reduced recidivism.[66] A study at a Wisconsin State Prison in 1948 examined 680 prisoners who attended full-time study in custody for two years after their release. Results indicated a "small but statistically significant" decrease in recidivism,[13] the first extensive study undertaken to examine the relationship was called Project Newgate.[13] Beginning in 1969 and studying 145 inmates in Minnesota over five years, results indicated that inmates who participated in an education program were more than 33% less likely to return to prison.[67][68] Other results at the time were not unanimous. A meta-analysis in 1975 and another in 1983 found that while education programs in prison were beneficial for inmates, their effects on recidivism were inconclusive.[13] More recent studies, however, consistently show that educational programs reduce the rates of re-offending.[61] A 1987 study of Federal Bureau of Prisons inmates found that those who participated in education programs were 8.6% less likely to return to prison,[69] and a 1997 study of 3,200 inmates in Maryland, Minnesota and Ohio found a reduction rate of 29%.[16] A meta-analysis of 15 studies done in the US during the 1990s found that, on average, inmates who attended tertiary level education in prison were 31% less likely to re-offend,[66] and the RAND Corporation meta-analysis found that, on average, there was a reduction rate of 13% for inmates who participated in educational programs.[62] A prison educational program created by Bard College has a recidivism rate of 4% for people who only attended the course and 2.5% for those who completed it.[17]

An Australian study of prisoners released between July 2001 and November 2002 found that in the two years following release, inmates who participated in educational programs were nine percent less likely to return to prison,[52][55] a 2005 report found that in the Australian state of Queensland there was a 24–28% reduction in the rate of recidivism among inmates who completed education courses,[70] and a study of 14,643 prisoners in Western Australia between 2005 and 2010 found that those who undertook prison education were 11.25% less likely to be re-incarcerated.[71] In England and Wales, a 2014 study of more than 6,000 prisoners found that those who undertook education courses were seven percent less likely to return to prison.[72] A prison education program in Ukraine had only three out of 168 participants (1.8%) re-offend in 2013;[34] the re-offending rate in Ukraine in 1993 was 30% within three years and 66% within five years.[73]

Effects of prison education courses have been found to be cumulative; studies show the more classes an individual takes while in prison, the less likely they will be to re-offend.[52][71] Studies also show higher level qualifications are associated with lower re-offending rates.[61][74] A 2000 study by the Texas Department of Education found that the overall re-offending rate was 40–43%, though inmates who completed an associate degree while in custody had only a 27.2% chance of re-offending, and those who a completed a bachelor's degree had a rate of only 7.8%.[16]

Studies of the effects of education on recidivism have been criticised for self-selection bias: it has been argued that recidivism is not due to the educational courses themselves, but only reflects the positive attitudes of people who volunteer for them.[43] However, attempts to control for such variables with paired difference tests in observational studies have found that the effect persists.[61][66]

Cost and financial benefits[edit]

The cost of providing education to a prisoner was between $2,000 and $3,782 per year, and the cost of incarceration itself was $32,000 to $40,000 per year in the US in 2009, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.[75] According to the RAND Corporation, in 2013 the figures were between $1400 and $1744 for the cost of education, and between $28,323 and $31,286 for the cost of incarceration per inmate per year.[76]

In England and Wales, education courses that have been linked to reduced recidivism are priced at about £250 each as of 2014, compared to a £37,648 cost of keeping a person incarcerated for a year;[72] in Canada, the cost of educating an inmate in 2013 was $2,950 per year, compared to a cost of $111,202 for incarceration for a year.[77][78] In 1988 in Australia, the cost of incarcerating a prisoner was $40,000 a year, while the entire budget for prison education at Bathurst Correctional Complex was $120,000 per year; in order for that prison's program to be cost effective at that time, it would have only needed to keep one person out of prison for three years.[64] As of 2015, the cost of incarcerating a prisoner in Australia is $109,821 a year.[79]

Studies have found that due to the increased rate of employment and decreased the rate of crime committed by inmates after release that is associated with prison education, the financial savings to the community more than offset the cost of the programmes.[80] A 2003 study found that a prison education program in Maryland reduced recidivism by 20%. Government analysts estimated that the education program was saving taxpayers more than $24 million a year based solely on the costs of re-incarceration, this estimation did not factor in the additional savings due to reduced strain on police, judicial and social service systems, nor the financial benefit from the fact that prisoners who gain employment after release pay taxes and are better able to support their families.[81] Taxpayers save additional money as prisoners who find jobs post-release are not reliant on unemployment benefits.[64][71]

A 2004 study by the University of California found spending $1 million on prison education prevents about 600 crimes, though that same amount invested in incarceration prevents only 350 crimes.[82] A 2009 study found that in the UK, every £1 spent on prison education saved taxpayers £2.50.[33] The 2013 RAND Corporation study estimated that every dollar being spent on education saves taxpayers $4 to $5,[17][83][84] and that to break even on the cost of education programs, recidivism must be reduced by between 1.9% and 2.6%.[85] According to journalists from Forbes in 2013, given the relatively low cost of educating inmates and the considerable financial savings "it's hard to fathom why there isn't a national, fully funded prison education program in every [US prison] facility".[15]

Funding allocation and prevalence[edit]

Both the availability and rate of participation in prison education programs, as well as the funding available for programs, varies greatly around the world, it is often difficult to obtain meaningful data on the amount of funding available for prison education, as the money may not come from a dedicated budget but rather from a variety of sources. In some cases, each individual prison receives an amount of funding and it will be up to the prison warden to determine how much, if any, is spent on education.[40] A survey in 2012 financed by the European Commission found that out of 31 countries in Europe, the majority reported no change in the budget for prison education over the previous three years. Funding was reported to have decreased for general education in three countries and increased in four. Countries that decreased funding appeared to also have decreases in prison budgets overall, while those that reported increases may have only been a reflection of the growth in prison population and corresponding increase in overall budget,[40] the budget for prison education in Norway increased from NOK 107 million in 2005 to NOK 225 million in 2012.[40] In the US, the rate of spending on prison education has decreased, even though the budget for the prison system overall has increased; in 2010, 29% of prison budgets were allocated to education, the lowest rate in three decades; in 1982, the rate was 33%.[83][86] Funding for tertiary programs was reduced from $23 million in 2008 to $17 million in 2009.[49]

A study in 1994 of 34 countries found that 50% offered basic literacy programs to inmates, and one third a form of education higher than that,[87] as of 2005, 35–42% of prisons in the US were offering tertiary education programs, and as of 2009–10, six percent of inmates in participating states were enrolled in such a program.[49] For many years the only prison education offered in Morocco was farming skills at the countries agricultural prisons, though a 2014 report found that educational opportunities had been increasing throughout the system; in 2012–13, 14,353 of the 70,675 inmates participated in literacy, vocational and other educational programs, an increase of about 20% on the previous year.[34] While Kyrgyzstan's Criminal Code guarantees the right to education for inmates, the countries prison system has been plagued with problems since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, including insufficient budgets and training for educational staff, as of 2014, six of the 31 prisons in the country were offering vocational education, and 13.5% of inmates overall were enrolled in such programs.[34]

[Prison education] should be aimed at the full development of the whole person requiring, among other things, prisoner access to formal and informal education, literacy programmes, basic education, vocational training, creative religious and cultural activities, physical education and sport, social education, higher education and library facilities.

United Nations policy on the provision of education for inmates[43]

Both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union state that no person shall be denied the right to education, and the European Prison Rules state the education of prisoners shall "be integrated with the educational and vocational training system of the country so that after their release they may continue their education and vocational training without difficulty".[43] Despite this, prison policy documentation in several European countries does not even mention education, and the 2012 European Commission survey found that there were 15 countries in Europe (including the UK) with less than 25% of inmates participating in educational programs.[43] Twenty-one of the countries reported there had been an increase in participation over the last five years, five reported no change and three reported a small decrease. Participation for juveniles was considerably higher; these results were expected as juvenile inmates are generally under the mandatory age for school education. Eleven of the countries reported a rate of above 50% and a further 10 countries reported a rate of over 75%, the survey also found that general education was offered to adult inmates in all prisons in 15 countries, in the majority of prisons in six countries and in less than half of prisons in 10 countries.[40]

In the UK, between 2010 and 2015, the number of inmates studying at university level dropped from 1,722 to 1,079, and the number of inmates studying at GCE Advanced Level had halved,[88] as of 2016, only 16% of people who leave prison in the UK completed an education or training placement.[89] According to a 2014 report, Belarus had 82 correctional centres, five of which were running primary and secondary schooling for inmates and a further 21 which were offering vocational training,[34] as of 2015, about 4.5% of the 70,836 inmates in Poland were participating in an educational course.[39]

While inmates may face difficulty accessing education in some European countries, it is widely available or even mandatory in others, as of 2017, primary education is mandatory in France for both juvenile inmates and inmates with no formal level of education, and prisoners in Germany are obligated to either work in custody or study.[39] In 2013, between half and three quarters of inmates in Germany participated in education programs;[33] in Denmark, smaller prisons offer education to all inmates and larger institutions require inmates to both work and study. Prison education is considered to be exceptionally good in Norway; by law all inmates must have access to educational courses.[39] Similar laws are in effect in Austria.[33]

In 1996–97, the rate of prisoners undertaking education in Australia ranged from 28% in South Australia to 88% in New South Wales, and averaged 57%,[90] for 2006–07, the national average was 36.1%.[91] A 2014 report found that decreases in participation was due to the inability of prison educational courses across the country to keep up with the growth in the prison population;[92] in 2016–17, the national average was 32.9%.[45] Vocational education had the highest participation rate at 22.4%, and university level education had the lowest at 1.7%.[45] In every state and territory in Australia, the demand for prison education greatly exceeds the available places.[19][22]

A 1990 investigation by Human Rights Watch which visited seven prisons in Indonesia found that all the prisons offered some form of basic literacy classes, though very little education beyond this level; in two of the prisons, "religious education" was compulsory.[93] In 1991, 561,000 inmates in China attended education courses and 546,000 were awarded a certificate for completing such a course; there were 1.2 million inmates in China in 1991.[94] As of 2016, only one of Singapore's 14 prisons has a school for inmates. Participation at the prison, however, is increasing; in 2015, 239 inmates sat for General Certificate of Education exams, compared to 210 in 2012.[95] As of 2018, only one prison in Japan operates a middle school. Male prisoners nationwide who do not have a middle school education can be transferred on request to the school, which has been operating since 1955. There were six graduates in 2002, and three in 2018.[54][96]


Community perceptions of prisons and prisoners were essentially a product of sensationalist media reportage, and the advocates of a commitment to rehabilitation tended to be howled down as 'do gooders' or worse. There was little place for the suggestion that the majority of prisoners might be fairly ordinary people involved in fairly extraordinary circumstances, for whom prison should provide an opportunity to re-establish themselves as citizens and workers on their (inevitable) return to society.

Senator John Tierney commenting on public opinion to prison education in a 1996 Australian federal government report[21]

Prison education programs are not without opposition. There is often little sympathy for the rights of prisoners from the general public, and the issue is accordingly not usually a priority for politicians as there are few votes to be gained from increasing funding for it.[21][25] Arguments made against the practice include that prisoners do not deserve the right to be educated, doing so is being "soft on crime" and is a waste of taxpayers' money, and that it is unfair for inmates to receive free education when law-abiding citizens have to pay for it.[17][92][97][98] According to criminologist Grant Duwe, the complaint that giving prisoners free education effectively treats them better than regular citizens is valid, though the practice should nonetheless be encouraged due to the significant savings for taxpayers as a result of decreases in crime.[65]

In 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed allocating $1 million of the state's $2.8 billion budget for prisons towards a college program for inmates. 53% of voters supported the proposal, however, it faced backlash from lawmakers and Republicans, with 68% of Republicans opposing it. It was subsequently withdrawn and replaced by a program that was privately funded instead;[17][97] in response, three Republican congressmen introduced a bill entitled the Kids Before Cons Act, which aimed to remove Pell grants and federal financial aid for prison education.[84][97] The bill was referred to the subcommittee for Higher Education and Workforce Training in November 2016, but has not progressed any further.[99]


  1. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, pp. 97–98.
  2. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, pp. 25–27.
  3. ^ a b Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, p. 67.
  4. ^ a b Smith 2017, p. 226.
  5. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, pp. 47–48.
  6. ^ Andersen, Anna (September 27, 2011). "Doing Time In Iceland". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. 
  7. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, p. 121.
  8. ^ a b c Forster, William; Forster, Bill (1996). "England and Wales: the state of prison education". Journal of Correctional Education. 47 (2): 101–105. 
  9. ^ McConville 2015, pp. 409, 410.
  10. ^ Norval 1998, p. 164.
  11. ^ Norval 1998, p. 192.
  12. ^ Jakobson 2015, p. 63.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Linden, Rick; Perry, Linda (1983). "The effectiveness of prison education programs". Journal of Offender Counseling Services Rehabilitation. 6 (4): 43–57. doi:10.1080/10509674.1982.9963696. 
  14. ^ International Prison Commission 1900, p. 28.
  15. ^ a b c Skorton, David; Altschuler, Glenn (March 25, 2013). "College Behind Bars: How Educating Prisoners Pays Off". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  16. ^ a b c SpearIt (2016). "Keeping It REAL: Why Congress Must Act to Restore Pell Grant Funding for Prisoners". Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN 2711979Freely accessible. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f "A College Education for Prisoners". The New York Times. February 16, 2016. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  18. ^ Ramsland 1996, p. 32.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Graffam, Joe; Shinkfield, Alison J.; Lavelle, Barbara (2014). "Corrections education and employment assistance 'Down Under': Current and emerging practices and paradigms". London Review of Education. 12 (2): 221–234. ISSN 1474-8460. 
  20. ^ Ramsland 1996, p. 309.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Tierney, John (1996). "Report of the inquiry into education and training in correctional facilities". Australian Senate. 
  22. ^ a b c Semmens, Robert (1993). "Issues for prison education in Australia". Convergance. 26 (3). ISSN 0010-8146. 
  23. ^ "Ex-judge wants computers in NSW jail cells". Special Broadcasting Service. April 20, 2017. Archived from the original on April 20, 2018. 
  24. ^ "7235 - Computers in Prison Cells". Parliament of New South Wales. December 27, 2017. Archived from the original on April 20, 2018. 
  25. ^ a b Devine, Nest (2007). "Prison Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: From Justice to Corrections" (PDF). New Zealand Annual Review of Education. 16: 55–72. ISSN 1178-3311. 
  26. ^ Mühlhahn 2009, p. 93.
  27. ^ Röhl, Wilhelm (2005). History Of Law In Japan Since 1868. Brill Publishers. p. 759. ISBN 978-9004131644. 
  28. ^ Hardacre, Helen; Kern, Adam Lewis (1997). New Directions in the Study of Meiji Japan. Brill Publishers. p. 754. ISBN 978-9004107359. 
  29. ^ "The Prison Law of Japan, and Regulations for the Application of the Prison Law". Charity Organisation Review. Oxford University Press. 28 (167): 335–340. 1910. 
  30. ^ Mühlhahn 2009, pp. 79, 80.
  31. ^ Mühlhahn 2009, pp. 96–100.
  32. ^ Simon 2001, p. 66.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Hawley, Jo; Murphy, Ilona; Souto-Otero, Manuel (2013). "Prison education and training in Europe: Current State of play and challenges" (PDF). European Commission. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 4, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b c d e f Czerwinski, Tania; König, Eva; Zaichenko, Tatyana (2014). "Youth and Adult Education in Prisons" (PDF). Experiences from Central Asia, South America, North Africa and Europe. 
  35. ^ Brazzell, Diana; et al. (2009). "From the Classroom to the Community: Exploring the Role of Education during Incarceration and Reentry" (PDF). Urban Institute. 
  36. ^ "The health of Australia's prisoner 2009". Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: 98. 2009. 
  37. ^ "Making Prisons Work: Skills for Rehabilitation" (PDF). Ministry of Justice: 2010. 2011. 
  38. ^ Banks, Nigel (2017). "Investing in prison education: New approaches to improving educational outcomes and reducing re-offending". Department of Corrections. Archived from the original on April 20, 2018. 
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i Becker-Pestka, Daria (2017). "Prison Education in Poland: Specifics and Challanges". Problems of Education in the 21st Century. 75 (2): 123, 125, 126, 133. 
  40. ^ a b c d e f g Costelloe, Anne; Torfinn, Langelid; Wilson, An (2012). "Survey on Prison Education and Training in Europe" (PDF). Europa. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 17, 2013. 
  41. ^ Hopkins, Susan; Farley, Helen (2015). "e-learning incarcerated: Prison education and digital inclusion" (PDF). The International Journal of Humanities Education. 13 (12): 37–45. 
  42. ^ Hughes 2016, p. 15.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Czerniawski, Gerry (2016). "A race to the bottom–prison education and the English and Welsh policy context" (PDF). Journal of Education Policy. 31 (2): 198–212. doi:10.1080/02680939.2015.1062146. 
  44. ^ Baidawi, Susan; et al. (2011). "Older prisoners: A challenge for Australian corrections" (PDF). Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. 426. ISSN 1836-2206. 
  45. ^ a b c "Corrective services" (PDF). Report on Government Services 2018: 10. 
  46. ^ Simon 2001, p. 61.
  47. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers 2005, pp. 36, 37, 52, 53, 80, 107, 108.
  48. ^ a b c d e Tam, Kai Young; Herg, Mary Anne; Rose, Dennis (2007). "Voices from correctional educators and young offenders in Singapore: A preliminary needs assessment study of the Kaki Bukit Centre Prison School". Journal of Correctional Education. 58 (2): 129–144. 
  49. ^ a b c d Gorgol, Laura E.; Sponslor, Brian A. (2011). "Gorgol, Laura E., and Brian A. Sponsler. "Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons. Issue Brief" (PDF). Institute for Higher Education Policy. 
  50. ^ Dick 2016, p. 69.
  51. ^ a b c d e f g Farley, Helen; Hopkins, Susan (2017). "The prison is another country: incarcerated students and (im) mobility in Australian prisons". Critical Studies in Education. 58 (2): 150–167. 
  52. ^ a b c Garner, Jane (2017). "The role of IT in prisoner education: A global view" (PDF). Australasian Society for Computers in Learning and Tertiary Education: 255–259. 
  53. ^ "Offline inmates denied education and skills that reduce re-offending". The Conversation. April 24, 2015. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. 
  54. ^ a b Asakura, Takuya (November 27, 2002). "Education for some refugees is ray of hope". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. 
  55. ^ a b Callan, Victor; Gardner, John (2007). "The role of VET in recidivism in Australia" (PDF). Vocational Education and Training for Adult prisoners and offenders in Australia, Adelaide, Australia: National Centre for Vocational Education Research: 34–46. 
  56. ^ a b Edwards, Glyn; Fisher, John (1991). "NSW Prison Education: The Continuing Education Problem". Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education. 31 (1): 18–26. ISSN 1035-0462. 
  57. ^ "Released Prisoners Returning to Prison". Sentencing Advisory Council. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  58. ^ "Prime Minister outlines plan for reform of prisons". February 8, 2016. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  59. ^ "Prisons: re-offending, costs and conditions". Full Fact. February 8, 2016. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  60. ^ "Innovative Education Can Help Fight Crime in Latin America". Brookings Institution. December 19, 2014. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. 
  61. ^ a b c d Erisman, Wendy; Contardo, Jeanne Bayer (2005). "Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy" (PDF). Institute for Higher Education Policy. 
  62. ^ a b c Davis 2013, p. xvii.
  63. ^ Pilche, J (2008). "Barriers to Knowledge Inside: Education in Prisons and Education on Prisons". Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. 17 (1): 10. 
  64. ^ a b c Sachs, Jim (1989). "Cost-effectiveness of the prison education dollar". Australian Journal of Adult Education. 26 (2): 16–19. ISSN 0004-9387. 
  65. ^ a b Duwe, Grant (May 24, 2018). "The Effectiveness of Education and Employment Programming for Prisoners" (PDF). American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2018. 
  66. ^ a b c Chappell, Cathryn (2004). "Post-secondary correctional education and recidivism: A meta-analysis of research conducted 1990-1999". Journal of Correctional Education: 148–169. 
  67. ^ Clendene, Richard J.; Ellingston, John R.; Severson, Ronald J. (1979). "Project Newgate: The first five years". Crime & Delinquency. 25 (1): 55–64. doi:10.1177/001112877902500104. 
  68. ^ Bowdon 2011, p. 259.
  69. ^ Harer, Miles (1995). "Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987". Journal of correctional education. 46 (3): 98–128. 
  70. ^ Callan, Victor; Gardner, John (2005). "Vocational education and training provision and recidivism in Queensland correctional institutions". National Centre for Vocational Education Research. 
  71. ^ a b c Giles, Margaret (2016). "Study in prison reduces recidivism and welfare dependence: A case study from Western Australia 2005–2010". Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. 514 (1). ISSN 1836-2206. 
  72. ^ a b Howse, Patrick (January 9, 2014). "Education makes prisoners 'less likely to reoffend'". BBC. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  73. ^ Foglesong, Todd S.; Solomon Jr, Peter H. (2001). "Crime, criminal justice and criminology in post-Soviet Ukraine series" (PDF). Issues in International Crime. 
  74. ^ Batiuk, Mary Ellen; et al. (2005). "Disentangling the effects of correctional education: Are current policies misguided? An event history analysis". Criminal Justice. 5 (1): 55–74. 
  75. ^ "2009 State Expenditure Report". National Association of State Budget Officers. 2010. 
  76. ^ Davis 2013, p. 37.
  77. ^ "Offender Education Programs and Services". Correctional Service of Canada. 2015. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. 
  78. ^ "Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2015-2016". Office of the Correctional Investigator. June 30, 2016. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. 
  79. ^ "Australia spending more on prisons, policing than other comparable countries: report". ABC News. November 21, 2017. Archived from the original on April 19, 2018. 
  80. ^ Dawe, Susan (2007). "Vocational Education and Training for Adult Prisoners and Offenders in Australia. Research Readings" (PDF). National Centre for Vocational Education Research. 
  81. ^ Steurer, Stephen J.; Smith, Linda G. (2003). "Education Reduces Crime: Three-State Recidivism Study. Executive Summary" (PDF). Correctional Education Association. 
  82. ^ Bozos, Audrey; Hausman, Jessica (March 2004). "Correctional Education as a Crime Control Program" (PDF). UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, Department of Policy Studies: 2. 
  83. ^ a b Bidwell, Allie (August 22, 2013). "Report: Prison Education Programs Could Save Money". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on January 28, 2014. 
  84. ^ a b Chen, Michelle (August 17, 2013). "Prison Education Reduces Recidivism by Over 40 Percent. Why Aren't We Funding More of It?". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Archived from the original on February 9, 2017. 
  85. ^ Davis 2013, p. xix.
  86. ^ Kyckelhahn, Tracey (2012). "State corrections expenditures, FY 1982-2010" (PDF). Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice: 1–14. 
  87. ^ Simon 2001, p. 73.
  88. ^ Allison, Eric; Sloan, Allistair (August 4, 2015). "Prison education still at the back of the class, as Gove takes new course". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 24, 2018. 
  89. ^ "Review puts education at heart of prison service". May 18, 2016. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. 
  90. ^ "Corrective services" (PDF). Report on Government Services 1997: 426. 
  91. ^ "Corrective services" (PDF). Report on Government Services 1997: 19. 
  92. ^ a b Olding, Rachel (February 19, 2016). "Call for complete rethink as prison population, recidivism explode". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on May 12, 2018. 
  93. ^ Vorenberg 1990, p. 39.
  94. ^ Simon 2001, pp. 66, 67.
  95. ^ Mokhtar, Farris (March 31, 2016). "Awakening Hope: How Singapore's only prison school helps rebuild inmates' lives". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. 
  96. ^ Tsuru, Shingo (March 21, 2018). "Prison cell no bar to learning as inmate in his 80s proves". Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. 
  97. ^ a b c Kaplan, Thomas (April 2, 2014). "Cuomo Drops Plan to Use State Money to Pay for College Classes for Inmates". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. 
  98. ^ Lewis, David (October 4, 2016). "Better preparing inmates for life outside". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. 
  99. ^ "H.R.3327: Kids Before Cons Act". ProPublica. Archived from the original on March 24, 2018.