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Pro Bono Economics has estimated that the Prisoners Education Trust’s Access to Learning programme provided cost and employment-related benefits to society worth £1.6 million in 2018.  

In our second report for Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET), PBE undertook an economic analysis of the costs and employment-related benefits of the PET’s Access to Learning programme. Using evidence from the MoJ Justice Data Lab, our research demonstrates potentially significant returns to society from supporting prisoners to find employment upon release. 

The PET aims to improve the future wellbeing and prospects of prisoners by providing those that have six or more months remaining on their sentence with funding to enable them to enrol in distance learning courses. The MoJ Justice Data Lab found that 12 months after their release, participants in PET’s Access to Learning programme have employment rates that are 6-9% points higher than members of a matched control group. 

PBE was able to use the participant’s increased employment rates to estimate the economic benefits to society in terms of increased wages, reduced benefits payments, and reduced usage of health services. The total benefit of PET’s Access to Learning programme arising from getting an estimated 191 additional released prisoners into work in 2018 is between £1.3 million and £1.6 million.  

On this basis, for every £1 spent on the programme it generates between £1.17 and £1.43 in benefits for society in terms of additional employment alone. These benefits could be significantly larger if we included the benefits of reduced reoffending or if the PET were able to develop evidence demonstrating that the impacts of the Access to Learning programme persisted for more than the 12 months explored in this report. 

To conduct a future economic assessment, the following data would be useful: updated evidence on the incomes of prisoners following release, as well as additional research into the benefits to the mental and physical well-being of released prisoners specifically.  

Thank you to Caroline Butler, Sarah Maxwell and Rohan Shah for their work on this project.

Jon Franklin, Chief Economist at PBE

“This work adds to the growing evidence that charitable activities produce substantial spillover benefits to society. The programmes run by the Prisoners’ Education Trust have a very clear benefit for those individuals who engage, but our report show that this benefits all of us. It isn’t just PET and its interventions which generate such benefits – across the sector we see that charities’ contributions to our communities and economy are chronically undervalued. Only by understanding and measuring these spillover benefits can we assess the value of the charity sector and ensure that we invest the appropriate level of resources as a country.”

Rod Clark, PET’s Chief Executive

“It is excellent to have this independent analysis from professional economists, providing further evidence that our work supporting people to study in prison doesn't just have an impact on our learners' lives, but on the rest of society too.” 

16 July 2020