A $1.6 MILLION intensive learning centre (ILC) is giving selected inmates in the jail at Aldavilla a full-time return to the classroom.
The new self-contained centre stands within the confines of the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre.
It consists of classrooms, a library, computer suite, and outdoor learning spaces.
It will provide up to 40 offenders literacy and numeracy, technology and vocational skills, such as motor mechanics or horticulture.
They will be encouraged to complete TAFE NSW accredited units to Certificate levels I and II.
It is the fourth ILC to be opened among the state’s 33 correctional facilities.
At a launch ceremony on Wednesday, NSW Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Greg Smith said the state government was committed to reducing re-offending rates, and addressing educational deficiencies among prisoners was a cornerstone of this policy.
The program is geared towards inmates nearing the end of their sentences, who are assessed in terms of their educational and training needs.
About 70 per cent of assessed inmates have reading skills below the level expected for year 10 high school students.
The rate of those with writing and numeracy skills below year 10 level is 90 per cent.
This week, 15 inmates began the course, with up to a further 25 set to participate in coming weeks.
For six months, they will spend all day at the ILC, before returning to their cells.
They will have access to computers for training purposes, but not to the internet.
As well as improving their literacy and numeracy, they will learn supplementary skills such as how to complete job applications and resumes, and interview techniques.
Mr Smith said the skills would make them more employable on their release.
“(It will) also make them better prepared to successfully complete prison programs that treat the causes of their offending behaviour,” he said.
“The intensive learning program started 10 years ago at Wellington, with an ILC opened 18 months ago at Nowra, and one last month at Lithgow.
“I’m told they’re very successful.”
Mr Smith was joined by NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner for the unveiling of a plaque.
Mayor Liz Campbell was among the guests.
Mr Severin said the new facility had been designed by the University of Technology Sydney’s Designing Out Crime centre.
It was constructed from pre-fabricated modules built by inmates at St Heliers Correctional Centre.
These were transported to the Aldavilla facility, where they were lowered over the perimeter fence by a crane.
Inmate 'James' is among the first group of those participating in intensive learning at the centre. Learn about his motivation for improving his literacy and numeracy in today's edition of the paper