Education an Employment Boost for Prisoners
26 August 2013 at 10:30 am
New US research has strengthened the link between prison education and the post-release employment prospects of prisoners.
Employment after release was 13% higher among prisoners who participated in either academic or vocational education programs than those who did not, according to a study by US Not for Profit research organisation RAND Corporation.
Those who participated in vocational training were 28% more likely to be employed after release from prison than who did not receive such training.
Offenders with access to education were also less likely to return to prison after release.
Researchers found that inmates who participate in correctional education programs have a 43% lower chance of returning to prison than those who do not.
Recidivism and employment were linked, with the dynamics of prison entry and reentry to society making it hard for ex-offenders to find work and build an employment history, the report said.
A lack of vocational skills and the absence of a steady history of employment represented a significant challenge for individuals returning to local communities, the report said.
It cited a range of previous studies highlighting post-release barriers to employment, which showed employment rates of formerly incarcerated men were about 6% lower than those for a similar group of men who had not been incarcerated.
Incarceration was also associated with a 14–26% decline in hourly wages, and surveys of employers in four major US cities and found that employers were more averse to hiring ex-offenders than hiring from any other disadvantaged group.
In general, prisoners in the US tended to be less educated than the country's general population.
16.5% of state prisoners had a high school diploma compared with 26% of the general population, while 51% of the general adult population had at least some postsecondary education compared with 14.4% of state prison inmates.
The prepare the report, RAND researchers conducted a review of the scientific literature of research on correctional education and performed a meta-analysis to collate findings from multiple studies about the effectiveness of correctional education programs.
“Our findings are clear that providing inmates education programs and vocational training helps keep them from returning to prison and improves their future job prospects,” Lois Davis, lead researcher and a senior policy researcher at RAND said.
“We no longer need to debate whether correctional education works,” Davis said. “But we do need more research to tease out which parts of these programs work best.”
In Australia, organisations such as the Australasian Corrections Education Association are supporting education and training programs for Australian prisoners.
Programs like the Women4Work Employment Program in Victoria have helped prepare and educate prisoners to gain employment post-release, however, that program was discontinued after State Government funding cuts in 2011.
Social enterprises have become a new way for prisoners in Australia to attain work experience and skills without complete reliance on funding.
Social enterprise Doin’ Time, in the Juvenile Offender unit of Port Phillip Prison in Victoria, sees prisoners screenprint garments and gain employable skills while generating proceeds for charity.
As of March 2013, the average daily number of full-time prisoners in Australia was 30,456.