Prisoners’ Education Trust

Looking at the impact of long-distance learning for prisoners for Prisoners’ Education Trust


Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) is a charitable organisation that provides support services to prisoners. PET wanted to know whether there is a causal link from engaging with the services offered by PET to reducing reoffending, estimating the scale of that effect and quantifying the value of such a reduction and comparing this to the costs of PET’s service.


Pro Bono Economics (PBE) matched PET with experienced economists from the Office of Communications (Ofcom). PBE volunteer economists then examined the economic and social costs of different types of crime followed by an evaluation of the socially beneficial costs of the PET programme to estimate a breakeven analysis.


Economists at Ofcom found that if the PET award was to lead to a reduction in reoffending of one percentage point then this would be sufficient for the benefits (to potential victims, the Criminal Justice System and wider society) to outweigh the costs. This is with an extremely conservative estimate of necessary minimum impact for social value of the programme.


Having compiled evidence from a Home Office study, the average cost of more serious offences in the UK is about £35,000, and the average cost of PET support is about £350 per award. It was also discovered prisoners who received funding via PET were between six and eight percentage points less likely to reoffend than a statistically-matched control group who did not apply to PET.

PBE Patron view

Vicky Pryce (Chief Economic Adviser at CEBR):

“I hope that this report will enable PET to continue to make the case to both the government and its funders that supporting offenders through educational programmes and skills acquisition is both necessary and effectual for the individual and for society as a whole.”

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