Innsette i norske fengsel: Kompetanse gjennom utdanning og arbeid
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The right of education during incarceration is regulated by international conventions and recommendations. Membership nations of the UN and the Council of Europe are committed to implement the agreements and recommendations they have assented to. Norway has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into her legal system, and a fundamental principle of the Norwegian prison system is that inmates should have the same access to social services as other citizens. To obtain a knowledge base for the assessment of the educational requirements of the Norwegian prison population this survey was conducted to examine inmates’ educational background and employment experience, educational participation and educational preferences. This study was carried out one week in May 2009 in all Norwegian prisons. Data were collected by a questionnaire. According to reports from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, there were a total of 3 359 inmates during the time period in question. Some of them (estimated to 3.6 per cent) were on leave or otherwise occupied, and could not be reached. Of the 3 238 inmates who received the questionnaire, 63.7 per cent answered and returned it. Inmates who were not confident in Norwegian were also given an English version, and those who could not understand either of the languages or those having reading or writing problems, received help to fill out the questionnaire. The questionnaires were returned anonymously. The study was approved by the Regional Ethical Committee for Research in Health Sciences of the Western Norway and the Privacy Ombudsman for Research, Norway. In addition, a special approval was granted from the prison authorities and the Ministry of Justice, Norway. Inmates born in 95 different countries participated in the study, and 33.5 per cent of those who replied were born in other countries than Norway. Women accounted for 6.0 per cent of the prison population when data was collected, but 7.4 per cent in the study population. The respondents’ average age was 34.7 years. Fifty six per cent of the inmates had primary school or lower secondary school as their highest level of education, while 29 per cent had upper secondary school as their highest level, which is equivalent to the Norwegian populations’ educational level before 1970. On the other hand, 15 per cent of the inmates had completed single courses or grades at university or college, which is close to the level of the Norwegian population in 1990. Ten per cent of the inmates had not completed any educational at all. The youngest inmates (below 25 years) were those who most often had not completed upper secondary school (89 per cent). Only small gender differences were found. More than ten per cent of the inmates had never been employed and those who had been employed had most often had unskilled work. According to the study, approximately 54 per cent of the inmates were not participating in any education activity in prison. Nearly every fifth was in upper secondary education, the same rate of the inmates participated in non-formal courses, and four per cent were studying university or college courses. Inmates between 25 and 34 years of age most frequently took part in prison education. There were only minor gender differences in participation in prison education. Inmates from Africa were those who most often took part in primary education. In Norway many inmates have short sentences. Those with short sentences (shorter than three months), rarely took part in education programs in prison. The part of the survey applying only to those inmates who are participating in educational activities indicated that they were basically satisfied with their course experiences. Seventy-one per cent of the inmates wished to start an education while in prison (they had at least one preference). Most of them they wanted to start or complete upper secondary education or shorter courses, such as ICT courses or language courses. Educational wishes were more common among those who had long sentences. Seventy-one per cent of the inmates replied that they had a final educational aim, while 29 per cent did not have educational aspiration; 29 per cent wanted to complete a vocational education while 30 per cent wanted to complete university or college. The inmates gave a self-report on their academic skills and learning problems. For reading, 67 per cent described their skills as good or very good, while similar figures for writing, maths and ICT competence were 57, 37, and 35 per cent, respectively. Inmates above 44 years of age more often described skills in reading and writing as good or very good (partly in maths too). On the other hand, almost one third of these inmates reported to have low skills in ICT. Only 57 per cent of the inmates replied that they had no problems in reading, 47 per cent no problems in writing, and 30 per cent reported to have no problems in mathematics. We recommend that the prison authorities and the educational authorities aim to become fully engaged in ensuring that there are prison educational activities available and suitable to all. The survey shows that there has been a steady increase in the number of inmates who take part in education in prison. However, the educational activities offered must be more varied, and especially more vocational courses must be offered. Moreover, the fact that an increasing amount of inmates are qualified to study at university or college level implies that this level also have to be represented in prison education. Most important, inmates with learning problems must also receive assistance after release.