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Inmates of Swedish prisons have low level of education

A report from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården), presented by LiU researchers, indicates that the level of education among inmates of the Swedish prisons is low. Many, especially among the younger inmates, have never attended school on a regular basis.

The report was compiled by professor Stefan Samuelsson and associate professor Anna-Lena Eriksson-Gustavsson, at the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning. It is based on a late 2006 survey of inmates in Swedish penal institutions. The report will be a source document for a pan-Scandinavian comparative study funded by the Nordic Council; publication is scheduled for the fall of 2008.

The Swedish report from the LiU scholars established that eleven percent of all inmates did not complete any type of formal education. Around forty percent did not finish elementary school. A higher proportion of the low-educated is found among inmates under 32 years of age.

Many of the inmates come from a background with difficult social-economic circumstances. They became delinquent at an early age, and contacts with the welfare office glided over into incarceration in the juvenile reformatories, and later the penal system for adults.

The report indicates that the Prison and Probation Service needs to motivate those young, low-educated inmates who are serving short sentence terms. If they apply themselves to studies, they can gain an education that will open a door to employment after their release.

Many young criminals never begin studies while in prison. They wait out the release date and re-enter the outside world as ill-equipped as before. The State needs to invest in education that will help them acquire basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Past research has shown that a proportionally greater number of inmates—as compared to society-at-large—are afflicted by learning handicaps such as dyslexia and concentration difficulties.


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Last updated: 2009-06-03