Unfulfilled educational potential in Danish prisons

Background photo: Emma MacLean Sinclair. Layered illustration: Ida Villadsen

Incarcerated people in Danish prisons and remand prisons are requesting better educational options. However, the lack of educational options – especially above ground school level – place limitations on meeting the educational requests of the incarcerated people, leaving a large unfulfilled educational potential in Danish prisons.

This is one of the major conclusions of the recently published report “Uddannelse til indsatte” (“Education for incarcerated people”) by the educational think tank Perspektiv. 39,4 % of all incarcerated people in Danish prisons and remand prisons participated in the research that was conducted in 2022 constitutes the basis for this report. The report is based on 1730 survey responses across 29 prisons and remand prisons and 41 interviews, and it presents the requests, barriers, experiences, motivations, critiques and thoughts concerning education from the point of view of the incarcerated people.

When asking the incarcerated people who are not currently participating in education about their educational interest, 78,4 % expresses that they would like to participate in education. Furthermore, there is a discrepancy between the requested and the current ongoing types of education. Vocational education and secondary school are the two most frequently requested types of education. The most frequent ongoing types of education are ground school level even though 86,0 % of the incarcerated people report that they have finished ground school.

The report also shows some central motivational factors among the incarcerated people for participating in education, such as seeing education as a meaningful way of spending time or to acquire skills and attributes that are useful after release. When elaborating on this forward-looking dimension it is connected to a wish for being active and contributing members of society. As a part of this, many incarcerated people request types of education that can qualify them for a job after release such as vocational and higher education. These two types of education are some of the least ongoing types of educations inside the Danish prisons.

The lack of computers and the lack of access to internet are the two most frequently experienced barriers for education. More than half of the incarcerated people who are currently participating in education reports these two as barriers for their education.

Another barrier for education is transfers of incarcerated people between institutions. Transfers are common and they are the most frequent cause to interruption of education. Varying educational options in different institutions, lack of information, lack of communication, and sudden transfers are some of the reasons to why transfers lead to educations being interrupted.

Read the full report

The above are some of the barriers and motivations that you can read more about in the report.

You can read the full report (in Danish) at taenkperspektiv.dk.

About the authors

Photo: Private.

Sofie Amalie Poulsen is an anthropologist and project leader in Tænketanken Perspektiv.

Contact: sofieamalie@taenkperspektiv.dk

Photo: Private.

Anders Lachenmeier is a sociologist project leader in Tænketanken Perspektiv.

Contact: anders@taenkperspektiv.dk

Photo: Private.

Anna Thomsen is a social anthropologist and project consultant in Tænketanken Perspektiv.

Contact: anna@taenkperspektiv.dk