The special circumstances of those in correctional facilities require the addition of a unique set of principles and ideas in the community as a whole and rehabilitation programs in particular. If poor socialization is one of the root causes of criminal behavior, as experts say, the goal of education is to provide skills to help prison inmates acquire understanding of appropriate ways to communicate and behave with others.
In helping outline the basics of vocational education in the prisons, as a consultant I underlined the value of the affective component of education as a vital part of basic skill instruction. This fusion can make a difference in how the inmate fares upon re-entry into the community after prison release. Researchers tell us that academic abilities and character development are complementary goals of education.
Included in the curriculum should be a set of activities that teach and provide examples of ethics and values concepts. The approach in this rehabilitation scheme should be to train the offender in life management skills and communication, especially in areas of deficiency. These might include education on issues such as human sexuality, empathy, social skills, negotiating and emotional expression. This can help the inmate to develop resources to better manage and cope with life.
Although the prison population is predominantly male, the number of women in prisons and detention centers continues to increase. Boredom, anger and frustration become more pronounced the longer an individual remains in prison. Prison life may in many ways hurt women more. This is because prison life is a “macho” one, and women have not been raised to deal with this aspect of prison life. Therefore they create groups or “families” for each other to help in dealing with prison life and the removal from their natural families.
For women the educational program should address these special concerns of women, their unique feelings and their concerns about jobs, money and children. Relationships are particularly important for women. The value of relationships should be a focus of basic skill training to recognize and address women’s special needs in both informal and formal discussion groups.
The affective component of education in prisons is critical to the success of rehabilitation programs. Attitude is an important determinant in how successful one is able to adapt to the community following incarceration. This is measured in the ability to secure a job and manage a productive, socially accepted manner of living. Social values need to be taught within the basic skills curriculum as well as the wider prison community. This way the inmate learns the benefits of those values and acquires an understanding of the social laws and customs needed to adapt to re-entry to community life. This can be a daunting task but one that should pervade the entire curriculum. Poor attitude is a major barrier to employment, so improving that attitude is essential for preparing the prison inmate to get and keep a job. Life skill courses, therefore, are important elements of a program and essential for satisfactory rehabilitation. In addition, it is important to note that having educational opportunity, especially post-secondary education, makes inmates less likely to return to prison once released.
Women in Prison
Penal Reform International
Moral and Character Development
Educational Psychology Interactive
Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison