Second Chance is the name of a Grundtvig project we do during the period 2013-15 and it’s carried out by associations, training centers, adult schools and different professionals
related to the penitentiary system. Six European countries participate in this project: Turkey, Estonia, Italy, Romania, Spain and Poland.
This project is included in The Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP). This programme was designend to enable people, at any stage of their life, to take part in stimulating learning experiences, as well as developing education and training across Europe.
The Grundtvig is a sub-programme focused on the teaching and study needs of adult learners, as well as developing the adult learning sector in general: formal education, non-formal and informal learning, including self-learning.
Within this idea, our project Second chance is born. We understand that education in prison should be an opportunity for the inmates to be included and to participate in society in a way that had been impossible before, now they can do it.
Our project aims at discussing and investigating two issues:
The first refers to the actual situation of education in prison. Education in prison can be a “second chance” to train the inmates, who, for various reasons and situations, did not take advantage of their “first chance” when they were children or youth.
Education for adults, and particularly education for adults in prison, allows the person to think about training and start again. In this case it represents to them a second training opportunity and it is also a benefit for the entire society as it plays an important role in reducing crime.
The second issue is that education can go beyond formal training and guide the inmates towards social integration. They have the opportunity to learn the language of the country they live in, to study a foreign language, ICT, formal education and no formal education. The educational activities also allow them to have an insight into the culture of the country where they are, to learn the values of respect and tolerance and experience an active involvement.
In order to find out if the prison school is a second chance, we have done a qualitative research in which the students were the protagonists.
For Le Compte (1995), qualitative research could be understood as "a category of research designs that extract interpretations from observations that take the form of interviews, narratives, field notes, recordings, and transcripts of audio and video cassette records, writings of all kinds and pictures or movies." For this author the most qualitative studies are concerned about the environment of the events, and she focuses its inquiry into those natural contexts. These contexts can’t be rebuilt or modified by the researcher, in which the persons are involved and interested. Quality according to Le Compte means the real, rather than the abstract; global and specific, rather than the disaggregated and quantified.1
In that sense, we understand this second chance as the vital experience that the student is living or has lived in the adults school, considering the reason which makes him go back to his studies or start new ones, the motivation and the hopes which push him to do it, to make this second chance exists.
Nevertheless, difficulties emerge when what we want to know and recognize is the way in which this second chance is seen, lived and thought of by our students. Considering our environment, that the school is in a prison, our students, who apart from having the possibility of some negative scholar experiences are deprived of their liberty, which may produce anxiety and uncertainty as a consequence of finding themselves in a physical and temporal space such as prison.
The researchers’ team wants approach to this world view of the school trying to be faithful, as much as possible, to our students’ voice. This is the work that we have done during the first phase of our investigation: collect from our chosen students, their narratives both of their life in general and of their school experience in particular.
With this knowledge, we wanted, in first place, to know, from empathy and confidence with our informants, how their school life was, what they think at present about the school, how they feel about, what it represents for them and what it arouses in them, in order to recognize how they see their training in the future and which expectations within other spheres of their life (labour, social, familiar, affective, personal...) this second chance represents for them.
Following a qualitative methodology, in order to access this information, we planned to produce the life story of each interviewee. In fact, elaborating the life stories we enabled us to extract the first conclusions about if the hypotheses we formulated (the prison school represents a second chance for the students) were true or not.
So as to produce these life stories, we made a semi structured open interview to our chosen students. In this type of interviews the mutual knowledge and confidential element, in conclusion, the empathy for our students, is essential. In fact, it is one of the indispensable requirements to choose the subjects of the sampling. We deal with human material: feelings, hopes, failures, successes, disappointments. So, it is at this point where the researchers’ team must act more carefully. We mustn’t only focuse in the methodological exactitude, but we should build the investigation from the respect of its main characters.
This travel in time, from a remembered past to a lived present in a specific situation, the vision not only of a future but the reconstruction of the scholar past, will provide tools for our students and for ourselves in order to build together a real second chance that may open a future where the school might be relevant.
With all the information provided during the interview, the interviewer wrote life story of each interviewee.
We know a life story as (…) stories produced with the intention to prepare and transmit a report, personal or collective, which refers to the way of life of a community in a particular historical period. (…)2
Each participating country has chosen three of all made for qualitative research.
The first part of this document are these selected stories and the second part contains the final reports of each country explaining everything from the development process followed the interviews until the final version of the life story.