Nordmenn i fengsel: Motiv for utdanning
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Training and education for those in prison constitutes 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. Accordingly, the research examined prisoners’ educational background and employment experience, educational participation, educational preferences and motives. This report presents the findings of part of that research. It outlines prisoners’ motives for engaging in education while in prison and highlights barriers which may prevent them from doing so. 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 2439 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 5.7 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. The subjects were presented with 15 possible reasons for embarking on an educational program while in prison. They were asked to indicate how important each of these reasons is for them. Of those who answered this particular part of the questionnaire 683 already participated in prison education and 592 did not. The 15 items of educational motive were factor analyzed. Three motive categories were identified: To prepare for life upon release (Factor 1), Social reasons and reasons unique to the prison context (Factor 2), and Competence building (Factor 3). Three reasons were considered as the most important for starting an education, both among those who had started already and those who had not: To spend my time doing something sensible and useful, To make it easier to get a job after release, and To learn about a subject. Younger prisoners were significantly more likely than older prisoners to say that the most important reasons are to pass an exam or to improve a previous grade; to make it easier to get a job after release and to use education as a bridge to more education after release. Similarly, prisoners with a high level of educational attainment were significantly more likely than those with a low level of educational attainment to say that the most important reasons are to spend time doing something sensible and useful and to learn about a subject. These two reasons were also considered significantly more important for those who participated in education than for those who did not participate. Prisoners with long sentences were more likely than those with shorter sentences to state that an education is important to make it easier to get a job, to spend time doing something sensible and useful, to satisfy the desire to learn, to make it easier to avoid committing crime after release, to pass an exam or improve previous grades, to learn about a subject, and to be better able to cope with life after release. The study also showed that prisoners with learning difficulties were more likely than others to say that improving self-esteem is important. The prisoners who did not participate in education were presented with 12 possible reasons for not participating. More than one in five prisoners and more than a third of those under 25 years of age ticked the box “the length of my sentence makes it impractical”. The mean sentence length in Norway is about three months. Many prisoner (and perhaps some prison education staff) may feel it is too short a time to start an education. More than one in five prisoners prefers to work rather than to go to school. Almost one in five answered that the education programme they are interested in is not offered in the prison or that they had not been given enough information about education. Although many prisoners have learning difficulties only seven percent of them say that learning problems are reasons for not participating in education.