Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
— Nelson Mandela
For many people, Education is empowering; it gives us meaning, improves our self-worth and gives us the confidence we need to succeed. Education provides people with better opportunities to find steady jobs and go on to lead successful lives. Unfortunately, there are many who haven’t completed grade school. There are many studies that show a direct correlation between low literacy and crime. Canada has one of the highest incarceration rates in the developed world. According to Correctional Services Canada, there are 151 people for every 100,000 incarcerated each year. Offenders are some of Canada’s most poorly educated people. This gives teachers the opportunity to help a population desperately in need of educational assistance.
Rehabilitation and Reducing Recidivism
The goal of correctional education is to aid in the rehabilitation of offenders. The average completed grade level among incarcerated individuals is very low. It has been noted that in 2010- 2011 there were approximately 38,560 people remanded or sentenced in institutions across Canada (“Public Safety Canada”). 79% of offenders have not received a high school diploma, and 65% of this population has less than a grade 8 equivalency (“Literacy and Policing in Canada”). There is an abundance of evidence that correlates low education levels with unemployment. It is not surprising that many offenders report inconsistent employment; unsurprisingly, risky criminal behaviour is a result. If this is not ramified, these factors will contribute to recidivism upon release. According to a 2013 report by RAND Corporation (American research and development for public welfare and security), if an offender takes educational programming during their sentence, there is a 43% decrease in that same individual returning to a correctional facility. The likelihood of that same offender finding a job after release increased by 13%; participation in vocational programs increases the likelihood of employment to 28% (Davis). Educational and vocation programs in corrections institutions are imperative for the offender to obtain employment, become a law-abiding constructive member of society, and remain free from incarceration.
Role of Teaching
Teaching philosophies stress the importance of nurturing students’ abilities and potentials. As correctional educators, a student’s past does not influence how they are taught; this would compromise their dignity and transformation from inmate to student. We teach our students appropriate boundaries, how to interact appropriately with others, good work ethic, and most importantly, respect for themselves, self-esteem, and confidence in their own ability to succeed. Inmates can use these skills to develop alternative ways to live within the community to prevent re-engagement in criminal activity. Like in many educational settings, students receive instruction in English language arts, social studies, mathematics, and sciences.
Learning disabilities affect students across Canada, and approximately 5-10% of society has a learning disability. In a correctional facility, as high as 25% of the inmate population suffers from a learning disability (“Inmate education”). Another issue facing correctional educators is the high ratio of students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). As a result, classes need to be structured with minimal distractions to foster a comprehensive learning environment. Between learning disabilities and FASD, teachers need to be sensitive to the educational needs of their classes.