Poland: Low rates of recidivism among prisoners who obtain university degree
By Vatican News staff reporter
For more than 10 years, the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) has been running educational classes for people in prison.
The initiative, known since 2022 as the Centre for Studies of the Catholic University of Lublin at the Remand Prison, is addressed to people not only in the Lublin Remand Centre, but also in other correctional institutions throughout Poland.
Fr. Mirosław Kalinowski, rector of the university, recalls Pope Francis’ words to the inmates of the Italian penitentiary “Due Palazzi” in Padua: “First of all, you are human beings and only then prisoners. Do not let your hearts be clothed with the armour of a lack of hope for a better future (...). There is a need for a conversion that will open us up to a unified justice and concrete prospects for a return to a normal life.”
Studying at the Catholic University of Lublin – according to the letter of intent signed in 2022 by the Catholic University of Lublin with the Central Board of the Prison Service – allows convicts to receive higher education and to assimilate important ethical and humanistic values.
Currently, studies at the Catholic University of Lublin, both bachelor's and master's degrees, are conducted in the field of family sciences. These include specialisations such as assistant of a dependent person (first degree studies) and animation of the social environment (second degree studies).
Benefits of the program
Fr. Kalinowski highlights that intellectual development, better employment prospects, re-socialisation, increased self-esteem, and the rebuilding of social ties are the main benefits of prisoners undertaking studies.
“For us, the most important thing is not to waste time in the place where we have found ourselves; studying at the Catholic University of Lublin develops us and allows us to think about the future with hope,” say Artur, Adrian, and Tomasz, who, while serving a prison sentence, are also students at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Study Centre at the Remand Prison in Lublin.
Tomasz, who has been in prison isolation for 10 years, believes that studying at the Catholic University of Lublin has allowed him to rethink his own life. “I have a greater sense of self-worth when I know that through my studies I will be able to help other people,” he concludes.
The launch of the Catholic University of Lublin Study Centre has also been very positively evaluated by the Prison Service, not only by its management, but also by regular employees such as Capt. Rafał Paczos, who is a senior custodian for culture, education, and the library.
“I met all the prisoners who studied at the Remand Prison in Lublin, and in almost everyone I saw a positive change. Prisoners were calming down, becoming much more open to the world, to other people, they were also becoming more optimistic about their own future,” the officer points out.
According to Fr. Kalinowski, the success of the venture is that the Catholic University of Lublin takes care of the academic procedures and the prison service takes care of the security of the process.
“Studying increases the self-esteem of convicts, it also allows them to feel like fully-fledged members of society, and deepens their knowledge and competences, which can be used after the end of their sentence. Since 2013, dozens of prisoners have already completed their studies at the Catholic University of Lublin,” concludes the Rector of the Catholic University of Lublin.