Local education authorities need to pay more attention to the number of students who are either dropping out, or being expelled from school.
Senior Research Officer with the state-run Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU) Kim Ramsay issued the warning here late last week during a National Consultation on Crime and Violence at which she presented preliminary findings of a new study into the prison population at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds.
The survey of nearly half of the 900 prisoners at the St Philip penal institution shows that more than 60 per cent of inmates had either dropped out or were expelled from school.
“[Just about] one in three respondents left school at the end of their school tenure, but 32 per cent dropped out and 28 per cent were expelled. When we look at this collectively, 63 per cent of all respondents [left school without qualifications] . . . including those that did [so] for financial reasons, [and] those that were expelled.
“This is a significant portion of respondents . . . and it is an issue that must be addressed by education officials because most of these persons go on to commit crime and end up in the criminal justice system . . . 63 per cent,” she warned.
Ramsay also pointed out that while boys were more likely than girls to be expelled from school, surprisingly, there was a high percentage of females who admitted to dropping out of the learning system.
“Fifty per cent of all girls said they dropped out compared to 31 per cent of the males,” Ramsay reported, adding that “girls were more likely to suggest that they left school for financial or family reasons”.
While noting that low education attainment and criminal offending have historically been linked, the criminal justice expert further explained that of the 438 prisoners surveyed only 15 per cent had received some level of vocational education, compared to 12 per cent with O’ Levels, and two per cent with university degrees.
“So we have seven in ten inmates sitting in our prison who left school with no qualification,” she stressed.
Ramsay also pointed out that based on the recent study, females commiting crimes were generally less academically qualified than male offenders, which she said surprising ran counter to research findings on gender.
“This study unearthed that females in the sample were slight more likely than males to have had no qualifications,” Ramsay told the gathering at the Garfield Sobers gymnasium.
However, she said when the findings were further analyzed by gender “19 per cent of females were more likely to have a vocational qualification compared to 15 per cent of all males”.
A similar study was done by criminologist Yolande Forde back in 1997 on the population at Glendairy. It found that approximately 80 per cent of the males incarcerated had no formal qualifications, whether academic or vocation.
Ramsey said this was consistent with preliminary findings of the current study which has showed that two decades later, a third of inmates at Dodds had dropped out of school while over a quarter had been kicked out of the education system.