PRISONS are failing to provide education and training to many inmates, leaving them more likely to reoffend, an inquiry has concluded.

North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee has concluded the system favours prisoners with longer sentences as they receive better and longer term access to education and training.

Hundreds of inmates were slipping through the net and are not receiving any education, despite the Probation Service receiving funding from taxpayers to do so.

The committee launched the inquiry three years ago after Ministry of Justice figures showed that within 12 months of being released from custody, 58 per cent of prisoners released from under 12 months’ custody had reoffended.

As well as quizzing officials, members visited a young offenders institution in Wetherby, the main custody centre for young people from North Yorkshire, HMP Kirklevington Grange, near Yarm, and HMP Askham Grange, near York.

The meeting heard the visits identified prisoners’ frustration at having to be in jail for at least two years to able to access the full range of education and training that they felt they required to enable them to secure a job upon release from custody.

Inmates also told councillors they had difficulty in accessing education and training which fell outside of the confines of catering, hotels, hair and beauty and hospitality.

The committee’s chairman, Councillor Derek Bastiman said a fast-track education system was needed in prisons.

He said: “We are extremely concerned that we are not getting true value for money in how these offenders are being treated and the opportunities that are not being given to them, such as education.

“From the three prison visits we did, the common thread was the lack of education, facilities and the provision of education.

“It has got to be tailored individually to the offender so that within a week or two his opportunities have been identified and delivered to him rather than going through this continuous amount of red tape and paperwork, which is so frustrating both for the North Yorkshire taxpayers and the inmates.”

In response to the inquiry’s findings, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said education was “an important part of turning offenders away from a life of crime, helping to prevent future victims and cutting the annual £15 billion cost of reoffending”.

She said: “That’s why we launched our Education and Employment Strategy last year and an extra 230 organisations are now providing training in prisons after we gave governors the power to commission services from a wider range of educational providers, charities and businesses.

“We agree that short prison sentences are often ineffective which is why we have set out changes to make our probation system more effective and are considering reforms to sentencing.”