Government research: impact of prison education goes beyond finding work

New research from the Ministry of Justice, published today, shows that the positive impact of education for people supported by Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) goes far beyond finding work.

Read our CEO’s blog about the new research here

The Justice Data Lab (JDL) – a team of statisticians at the Ministry of Justice – looked at the employment and reoffending records in their first year of release for over 9,000 people supported by PET to study distance learning courses in prison. They then compared the outcomes for these people with a matched group of similar prisoners that had not been supported by PET.

The research demonstrates three key things about the people supported by PET:

  • They are more likely to get a job within one year than prisoners PET does not support.
  • Even if they do not get a job they are less likely to reoffend within that year than other prisoners who do not get jobs.
  • And if they do get jobs they are even less likely to reoffend than other prisoners who find employment.

Read the Justice Data Lab report here

This new analysis confirms the results of earlier JDL research that, in the year after release from prison, people supported by PET reoffended statistically significantly less than a matched comparison group of prisoners who had not been supported, and got employment statistically significantly more than the matched comparison group.

However in this latest experimental research the JDL team have been able to explore further the relationship between support from PET, employment and reoffending.

This evidence strongly supports the Prisoner Learning Alliance’s Theory of Change, published in 2016, about the positive impact of education.

Education in prison helps people to gain employment after release, and that is known from other research to be linked to lower levels of reoffending. But education has benefits in other ways too, including improved wellbeing, finding the self-belief and confidence to change, and creating a sense of belonging and community. These other benefits are also likely to help someone lead a fulfilling life away from crime.

The latest Justice Data Lab results cannot throw light on the precise factors at work. But they do show that it is not simply getting a job that is important in reducing reoffending (important though that is). This evidence further strengthens the already strong case for the value of education in prison.

Notes to editors:

  • Read the Justice Data Lab report here. This report was published on 21 January.
  • 18% of the overall treatment group (adults who received grants for distance learning through PET) reoffended during the one-year period after release. This is significantly less than the comparison group (23%).
  • 40% of the treatment group were employed during the one-year period after release. This is significantly more than the comparison group (33%).
  • 13% of the treatment group who were in employment, reoffended during the one-year period after release. This is significantly less than the comparison group in employment (18%).
  • 24% of the treatment group who were not in employment, reoffended during the one-year period after release. This is significantly less than the comparison group not in employment (28%).
  • The Justice Data Lab analyses look at a larger group of PET learners, including later cohorts that were not able to be covered by the earlier Justice Data Lab analyses published in September 2015 and July 2018.
  • Justice Data Lab Re‐offending Analysis: Prisoners Education Trust, published September 2015
  • Justice Data Lab Experimental Statistics: Employment and benefits outcomes, published July 2018
  • Prisoner Learning Alliance and New Philanthropy Capital’s 2016 report, What is prison education for? A theory of change exploring the value of learning in prison.

About Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET):

Since 1989, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) has offered distance learning courses and advice to people in prisons across England and Wales – from GCSEs to the start of degrees, as well as a wide range of vocational courses.

Our work is proven by the Ministry of Justice to reduce the chance of someone returning to prison, and increase their chance of finding work.

And as the UK’s leading prison education charity, we advocate for system-wide improvements to make the most of education’s potential – for prisoners, their families, and society as a whole.


For further information about PET, please contact Calum Walker, Media and Communications Manager, by email or call on 07824 189661.

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