Document Type



Edith Cowan University


Faculty of Business and Law


Centre for Innovative Practice


Giles, M., & Whale, J. (2013). Prisoner education and training, and other characteristics: Western Australia, July 2005 to June 2010.


Executive summary

Spending public funds on educating and training prisoners can generate a significant return on investment, because as this report argues, studying in prison can reduce costly recidivism and improve life outcomes for ex-prisoners. What are the costs of recidivism? Let’s start with incarceration. Prisoners cost money - about $110,000 per prisoner a year. With over 4,000 prisoners in WA prisons at any one time and a turnover of 8,000 prisoners per year, incarceration is a costly business. In addition, there are policing and legal costs related to finding, charging and sentencing alleged offenders; as well as costs to the community in relation to property damage, insurance premium increases, lives lost and harm and trauma to victims of crime. Reducing recidivism alone can therefore bring about huge cost savings to the government and the community. Then there’s the cost of welfare dependence. In the short term, these include payments to families of incarcerated breadwinners and unemployment benefits for ex-prisoners; just two of the many different types of welfare payments administered by Centrelink. In the longer term, intergenerational welfare looms for an increasing number of disenfranchised, unskilled and unemployed workers, including exprisoners who are further disadvantaged by having a criminal record. Improving employability and reducing welfare dependence can therefore reduce demand on the public purse, as well as promote more productive lives. In Western Australia, considerable efforts have been made by the WA Department of Corrective Services (DCS) to reduce recidivism and improve individual and community outcomes. Internal reviews of offending behaviour by the Education and Vocational Training Unit (EVTU), which has provided courses and classes in Western Australia prisons for many years, show proportionately fewer repeat offences by ex-prisoners who studied in prison, compared with those who did not. Missing from these reviews however is the bigger picture. This research project demonstrates how studying in prison can lead to better labour market outcomes and reduced recidivism, and provides an evaluation of the resulting impact on welfare utilisation. This report is the first of three and summarises the prison training data. It indicates that the Western Australia prison population is diverse, and as can be seen from the class and course profiles, prisoners have varied education and training experiences.

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