​School's In for Mid North Coast Inmates

Issued: Wednesday, 2 April 2014
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Mid North Coast Correctional Centre inmates are going back to school at a new state-of-the-art education centre designed to break down learning barriers and reduce the risk of reoffending.

Minister for Justice Greg Smith SC was today joined by Deputy Premier and Member for Oxley Andrew Stoner and Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin at the launch of a new Intensive Learning Centre at the Kempsey prison.

Mr Smith said the new $1.6 million ILC joins three others operating in NSW prisons, but is the first with a unique, versatile design aimed at engaging inmates in education like never before.

“With this ILC we are using clever, flexible spaces combined with interactive teaching technology to ensure inmates get the most out of this intensive learning experience,’’ said Mr Smith.

“Engaging inmates in learning is important, because there’s a strong link between criminal behaviour and a lack of education and employment opportunities.’’

Mr Smith said about 70 per cent of assessed inmates had reading skills below Year 10 level, while 90 per cent of assessed inmates had writing and numeracy skills below Year 10 level.

“This ILC will give maximum-security inmates literacy and numeracy skills and qualifications equivalent to Year 10 level through full-time study, five days per week for six months,’’ said Mr Smith.

“It will give inmates computer and trades skills that will make them more employable on release, and also make them better prepared to successfully complete prison programs that treat the causes of their offending behaviour.’’

“The NSW ILC program has now run for 10 years and has proven very successful in improving inmates’ behaviour and learning outcomes.’’

Mr Stoner said: “The NSW Government is committed to improving education and training facilities in our state prisons to reduce reoffending risks to the community - this ILC is the result of a $2.5 million 2013-14 State Budget allocation towards achieving that.’’

He said about 15 ILC inmates are expected to begin studies this week, with the remaining students to begin classes in the next several weeks.

“This means we now have four ILCs operating in the NSW prison system, with ILCs at Wellington and South Coast Correctional Centres and a newly-opened ILC at Lithgow Correctional Centre,’’ he said.

Mr Severin said the ILC would accommodate four teachers and about 40 inmate students in a dedicated, flexible learning environment.

The design would allow large classes as well as smaller working groups and one-on-one teaching. It would also have outdoor learning spaces and technological learning aids.

“Learning through technology is a strong feature – this ILC offers Smart Boards and computer programs with interactive learning resources. Its curriculum will include TAFE-NSW accredited units to Certificate I and II levels focusing on literacy and numeracy skills, technology skills and vocational skills, such as motor mechanics or horticulture.’’

“It’s the result of a very successful collaboration between Corrective Services NSW’ education, industries and custodial operations and the University of Technology Sydney’s Designing Out Crime centre, which is an initiative of the NSW Department of Attorney General & Justice.

“It’s construction alone was a major achievement, with pre-fabricated modules built by inmates involved in St Heliers Correctional Centre’s building construction program, giving those inmates extra skills and saving taxpayers’ money,’’ said Mr Severin.

“We then trucked the modules about 400kms out to Mid North Coast Correctional Centre where they were craned in over the perimeter fence, assembled and fitted out on site.’’

Designing Out Crime architect Kevin Bradley said the ILC’s diversity of learning spaces created a versatile and engaging learning environment.

“This ILC was designed in a way that offers educators and learners the opportunity to teach and learn in different ways not offered by traditional classrooms,’’ said Mr Bradley.