Inmates with lengthy prison terms at a highly secure UK correctional facility have taken GCSE English exams and achieved better results than many individuals in the general population.
The teachers reported that 78% of the small group of inmates who took the exam at HMP Frankland in County Durham passed with a grade 4 or higher, which is equivalent to a C. This success rate is nearly three times higher than the rate for retakes at further education colleges in England.
Despite facing limitations, they were able to succeed in their studies. The prisoners only had one year to finish the course, which was condensed into a three-and-a-half hour session once a week. Unlike the average GCSE candidate, they were not allowed to use the internet.
A person found themselves preparing for their GCSE exams while their son was also studying, leading to a closer relationship during phone calls with the family.
According to Jo Watmore, the education manager at HMP Frankland, it is common for people to question the purpose of providing classes to inmates who may not be released for several years or at all. However, she believes that their imprisonment is already a form of punishment and offering meaningful and purposeful activities can benefit even the most challenging individuals in society by giving them an opportunity to improve and grow.
“Education serves as a means to shift individuals’ perspectives and alter their perceptions of themselves and the world around them. Ultimately, the majority of students will graduate and reintegrate into society.”
Research has indicated that receiving education can aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners, leading to improved behavior, reduced aggression, and lower rates of self-harm.
Frankland detains men over 21 years old, including dangerous prisoners awaiting trial and category A inmates considered to be the most dangerous to society, law enforcement, or national safety. A significant number are serving life sentences and indefinite prison terms.
The GCSE courses were conducted by instructors from Milton Keynes College Group, a major provider of correctional education in England, collaborating with 29 prisons.
Nine inmates, all of whom have been sentenced to lengthy terms for various grave crimes, took the GCSE exam. Each one had to go through an application process, attend an interview and pass a skills assessment before being able to register for the course.
Watmore stated that they also had to request the Prison Service to refrain from relocating them to another area within the high security facility for one year to avoid any disruptions in their work.
Many individuals are currently serving lengthy or life-long prison sentences, however, they now have the opportunity to become mentors, learning assistants, or pursue a college degree. This initiative aims to support career development for those in custody.
In the previous year, the Commons education committee published a report stating that education in prisons was in a subpar condition. It was found that there has been a continuous decline in the quality of education and the number of inmates involved in learning or training, highlighting the urgent need for a comprehensive reform.
Following the success of this group at Frankland, 30 inmates have registered for GCSE courses in English and math.