Within the criminal justice system, a key area of research and development has been in identifying the most effective interventions to reduce re-offending and to ensure effective resettlement of offenders within the community. In looking at barriers to this, limited literacy impacting on access to employment has been a consistent theme, with Education, Training and Employment (ETE) considered as one of the nine pathways out of crime. Within this ETE pathway access to appropriate literacy training (alongside numeracy and life skills) is formally identified by the Ministry of Justice as an evidence based effective intervention to increasing levels of employment1. There is also recognition that improved literacy impacts on abilities to engage with some of the other resettlement pathways.
Alongside UK nationals, whose English literacy levels are directly linked to their level of engagement and achievement within the UK educational system, we find an increase in the numbers of offenders in custody for whom English is a second language, resultant in the doubling of the number of foreign nationals in custody between 2003 and 2013. The same is likely for those on community supervision although comparable data is not available. Barriers to resettlement for this group may be limited literacy in their national language, but even for those who have achieved good education in their country of origin, limited understanding and fluency in English can inhibit entry to the work market and access to other key support services. The need for good English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision for this group was recognised in the involvement of six prisons in the ESOL Pathfinder, first launched in 2002 in the context of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) Public Services Agreement Target to improve the literacy, language and numeracy levels of 2.25 million adults. Findings of the report in relation to the ESOL prison pathway confirmed a high level of need and although it did not attempt to evaluate the potential impact on resettlement, data gathered from students identified relevant goals and outcomes in relation to improved self- confidence and help to improve their abilities to secure better-paid employment on release.
Download: The Language Barrier to rehabilitation