Opinion Piece: Long-term prisoners allowed student loans to get an Open University degree.

Committed a crime, inflicted pain, locked up, but, should long-term prisoners be granted student loans to study for a degree?

This could be a massive step forward to help ex-prisoners make a strong future for themselves and get away from the stigma of having been an offender. But there are concerns as to whether it is right to grant them this opportunity considering what they have done?

The BBC reported on the topic. In an attempt to improve inmates’ education, long-term prisoners within six years of release are being offered a student loan for a distance-learning Open University degree. A study estimates that scrapping the six-year rule would add another 200 prisoners per year to student numbers costing £2.3m. There would be savings up to £6m as a result (even without loans being repaid) as an analysis said improving the education system in prisons is likely to promote better behaviour as well as lowering the chance of re-offending.

Photo credit: https://prisonphotography.org/tag/prison-art/

The scheme portrays clear financial benefits and benefits to the prisoner’s education. Everyone should be given an equal opportunity to build their future, experience doing a university degree and excel. Just because a person is a prisoner does not mean they shouldn’t be allowed to attempt to better their future in getting a degree.

However, should a prisoner, someone who has possibly hurt others in breaking the law, be given the same opportunity as students who haven’t committed a crime? They need to take full advantage of the scheme and not re-offend otherwise the money used in this opportunity can be invested more usefully elsewhere.

Non-offenders paying tax may feel angry when finding out they are contributing to a long-term prisoner’s student loan. They may think: what have the prisoners done to deserve this opportunity? Whilst most students will have to work hard to get to university, prisoners may have no qualifications and have done nothing but broken the law.

Important benefits of this scheme include savings for taxpayers and rehabilitation for prisoners. Re-offending costs taxpayers an extra £18bn per year, however this scheme will reduce re-offending therefore this figure will be cut. Similarly, having a sense of direction both in and out of prison, criminals are less likely to re-offend. The scheme also means prisoners are not being discriminated against.

Everyone should be entitled to an education and having served their sentence; a prisoner may want a fresh start and they should have this opportunity to make something of themselves. But it again comes back to our trust in ex-offenders: how much do we trust that every prisoner who goes through the open university is going to work hard and not re-offend?

Photo credit: https://prisonphotography.org/tag/prison-art/

Overall, since criminals are not living a busy lifestyle when in prison, why should they not use this opportunity to better themselves. Spending their time wisely in investing in their education and future is an extremely proactive way to not only rehabilitate themselves, but to improve their chances of getting a good job once out of prison.

Despite this, with innocent people’s taxes involved, it is owed to them that their money is going towards something worthwhile and that will contribute to the greater good. While this has clear benefits and could be extremely useful and proactive for prisoners to fully rehabilitate and make a future for themselves, there needs to be confidence in that they are going to use this to their full advantage. This is a privilege and something highly controversial. Yet it is something that prisoners should not be restricted from if they turn their lives around.

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