UK’s Gove Floats Linking Early Prisoner Release to Education


Prisoners in England and Wales might be able to get an early release from jail by completing English and Math courses, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Justice and former Secretary of Education has proposed.

While the penal system keeps offenders isolated to protect society, it doesn’t have a robust rehabilitation policy that prevents recidivism after release.

During a speech at the Prisoner Learning Alliance, Michael Gove explained his idea of an earned release through prison education. Prison officers are in doubt over the program’s feasibility and effectiveness, arguing they’ve heard similar “rhetoric” in the past without any actual steps toward implementation.

The recently appointed Justice Secretary emphasized that implementing a prisoner education overhaul is not an easy task, as there are plenty of “technical and complex policy questions” that need to be addressed.

Gove also mentioned that “ageing and ineffective” prisons will close and governors will come to more power.

Although prisons may be effective in keeping society safe from dangerous offenders, Gove highlighted the lack of rehabilitation provisions that end up harming the poorest citizens and their communities. Almost half of released prisoners commit an offence within a year of their release, while 58% of prisoners serving short-term sentences commit dangerous offences shortly after release.

“Our prisons are not working in other crucial ways. Prisons are not playing their part in rehabilitating offenders as they should.”

Re-offending can be reduced through prison education, Gove says:

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending.”

Gove says that teaching inmates how to read and solve basic math makes them less prone to re-offending and increases their chances of quicker, successful integration back to society.

“Ensuring those offenders become literate and numerate makes them employable and thus contributors to society, not a problem for our communities.”

According to, linking prisoner release with education is a concept that has been suggested before. Specifically, back in 2008 a similar suggestion was made that inmates could “earn an early release at the standard halfway point of a sentence.”

However, many were concerned that the program would cost the Ministry of Justice too much money as few inmates would be successful in completing coursework and earning qualifications.

Prison Reform Trust Director Juliet Lyon says it will be a tough challenge to turn Gove’s idea into a “sensible policy and to create a just, humane and effective penal system.”

According to Ministry of Justice 2012 data, 21% of prisoners say they need help to read, write and understand numbers. Four in ten inmates want help to improve their employability skills and 22% of inmates hold a GCSE A to C level.

Getting the ever-increasing inmate population out of jail early is something the nation seeks, especially due to budgetary constraints. To encourage governors to implement the idea, Gove welcomes them to choose their own education provider.