Nordmenn i fengsel: Utdanning, arbeid og kompetanse
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Training and education for those in prison constitute an important but often neglected aspect of adult learning. A fundamental principle of Norwegian prison policy states that prisoners should have the same access to social and educational services as other citizens. The Educational Act recognizes the right of all to basic schooling, and all teenagers and adults who have completed compulsory school have a right to three years of upper secondary education. Adults also have the right to «second chance» or supplementary basic education and/or special education. Today education is provided in all Norwegian prisons. In order to establish a sound knowledge base that can inform both policy and practice, and help prioritize resourcing for prisoner education and training, research was carried out to determine the educational needs of the Norwegian prison population. This report outlines Norwegian prisoners’ educational background and employment experience, educational participation while incarcerated, educational preferences and wishes. The prisoners’ level of education is compared to the general population in Norway. The findings are related to both gender, age and length of sentence. The study was approved by the Privacy Ombudsman for Research and additional approval was granted from the prison authorities and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security. It was carried out over one week in October 2012. All prisoners with Norwegian citizenship in every Norwegian prison were invited to participate. At the time of the study, there were a total of 2 439 prisoners with Norwegian citizenship in prison. Data were collected by means of a questionnaire. Of the prisoners who participated, 1 276 completed and returned the questionnaire. This constituted a response rate of 52.3 per cent of the total population of prisoners with Norwegian citizenship. Women accounted for 5.3 per cent of the prison population when data was collected, and 5.8 per cent of the study population. The average age of the total respondents was 36 years. Prisoners with reading or writing difficulties received help to complete the questionnaire. All questionnaires were returned anonymously. Approximately one per cent of the Norwegian population have no completed education at all; this applies to 7.3 per cent of the prisoners. Of those prisoners who have completed education, more than half (52.1 per cent) have primary or secondary school as their highest completed education level, compared to 28.2 per cent of the Norwegian population in 2012. Moreover, 42 per cent of the Norwegian population have completed upper secondary school; this accounts for 34.9 per cent of the prisoners. Thirteen per cent of the inmates have university education (whatever level) as their highest completed level compared to 29.8 per cent of the Norwegian population. There are no significant differences between males and females in completed education level. Only 22.5 per cent of the inmates below the age of 25 have completed upper secondary education. More than four out of five inmates wish to participate in education while incarcerated; men some more than female prisoners. Most of them wish to attend upper secondary level or single independent courses. Slightly more than seven out of ten (71.2 per cent) prefer vocational education or courses. The longer the sentence, the more inmates wish to take upper secondary or university education. Age correlates negatively with both participation and education wishes. Single independent courses or upper secondary education are the most attended educational activities among Norwegian prisoners. Less than half (46.4 per cent) of the inmates do not participate in education while incarcerated. A larger number of younger than older inmates self-reported difficulty in reading, writing and doing arithmetic. However, less than one out of twenty (4.6 per cent) reported difficulty to a great extent in reading; 6.4 per cent in writing; 13.8 per cent in doing arithmetic. Female prisoners reported less difficulty than males in reading and writing. The percentage reporting difficulty doing arithmetic was equal in 2012. In Norway, attending upper secondary school (three or four years) is a legal right which has to be completed before the age of 25, otherwise special rules and legal rights concerning adult education are applied. Among prisoners in that age group, as many as 30.5 per cent were eligible, but did not participate in that activity while incarcerated. Prisoners participating in education activities reported to be highly satisfied with the teaching and education provided (76.3 per were highly satisfied). However, those participating at primary or secondary level were less satisfied than those participating at upper secondary level (27.3 per cent were highly satisfied in contrast to more than fifty per cent of upper secondary school attendants).