In western countries, prisons exist with the aim of educating, or rather reeducating, offenders. In time, the concept of prison and the aims of penalty have significantly changed, and the role assigned to education has progressively increased. However, as central a goal as it is, education is far from being an accomplished result or a recognised right to offenders everywhere. Nowadays more than ever, with overcrowded prisons and economical crisis, the debate on these themes is important, also to avoid the risks of ignoring it in the name of higher priorities. In this sense, educational research is crucial, since it represents the fundamental link to connect the outcomes of theoretical debate in historical, sociological and juridical studies, in the light of concrete proposals of intervention. The following article presents an overview on the reflections and contradictions about education in prison. It first introduces the main aspects of the field of research, then it motivates the reasons why prison education is, or should be, considered a fundamental objective in contemporary society and, finally, addresses the problem of what education can be applied in the prison context. In the second part, it shows the first results of an ongoing research on the educational profiles of the inmates in an Italian prison.
Keywords: Re-education, recidivism, total institution, prisonisation, educational profiles, cultural habits.