The aim of prison education
Most prisons offer the opportunity to pursue educational or practical courses which will teach inmates new skills and equip them for life when they finish their sentences. Educational programmes are run by the Offenders’ Learning and Skills Unit in conjunction with the Department for Education and Skills.
One of the principal aims of education and skills programmes is to reduce the likelihood of prisoners reoffending; the aim is to encourage them to go into employment rather than commit another crime and end up back in prison. Encouraging prisoners to follow skills or education programmes enables them to realise that they have capabilities and talents and helps to build self-esteem and ambition.
Courses on offer
There is a vast range of courses on offer at most prisons; these range from national academic qualifications such as GCSEs and A levels to vocational courses such as bricklaying, joinery and gardening. Literacy is an important skill yet many prisoners come to prison without adequate literacy skills; completing a literacy course will improve the chances of finding a job in the future and make dramatic changes to their life in terms of being able to participate fully in community and facilitate learning in the future. Computer courses are also popular in prisons; these skills are increasingly important and will enable prisoners to be up to date with technology when they leave.
The completion of a vocational course provides many prisoners with a ready-made job when they go out; with the knowledge gained by doing the course they will be able to set-up their own business and earn an honest living. Doing a course can result in many people discovering talents, interests and skills, which they never knew they had before.
Employment in prison
There is a large variety or work available in many prisons which may or may not be paid. Common jobs in the prison setting include catering, maintenance work and cleaning; some prisoners work outside of the prison under supervision; this work usually involves manual labour, working in industrial warehouses and units and gardening. Those undertaking vocational courses may also be able to arrange a period of practical work to accompany the theory side of the course.
Concerns for the future
In light of the recession, the opportunities for employment both in and out of prison have significantly decreased. However, it is important to keep the education and skills programmes up and running as they are undoubtedly providing valuable knowledge information and life skills.