Jamaica News: Four inmates and one Correctional Officer have been selected as the first recipients to benefit from full scholarships valued at $300,000 each per year, to pursue associate degrees with the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC).
The new students will pursue the Associate of Science Degree in Business Administration online, at the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, as a pilot project beginning in the spring semester 2020. It will last for up to two years.
The initiative, which aims at boosting the educational capabilities of the participants, is being facilitated through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) among the Ministry of National Security through the Department of Correctional Services; Stand Up For Jamaica, a non-governmental organisation; and the UCC.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at the UCC today (January 6), Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, said the programme seeks to enhance the rehabilitation process and facilitate the successful development of inmates and Correctional Officers.
“This is noteworthy, and it shows that we are willing to pool our resources for the advancement of our most vulnerable,” he said.
Mr. Spencer congratulated the individuals who have been chosen to participate in the programme, pointing out that this “life-changing opportunity” will not only benefit them and their families but also represents a sensible investment for the society.
“Today’s signing shows that we understand the limitations and hear the cries of the offenders, who face difficulties qualifying for employment opportunities because of educational limitations.
Therefore, we are increasing the marketability of inmates and officers by providing sustainable scholarships and grants through worthwhile partnerships,” Mr. Spencer said.
He lauded the UCC and Stand Up For Jamaica for assisting in transforming lives. “Simply locking up people and throwing away the keys is no longer a part of the correctional process. We have shifted gears, our focus is not on punishment, but on redemption,” he added.
For her part, Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs, UCC, Professor Bernadette Warner, said the vision is to build the scholarship programme to include more eligible inmates and other correctional facilities in due course.
She said orientation begins on January 8, while classes should commence on Sunday, January 11.
Professor Warner said the Department of Correctional Services will provide the students with an appropriately equipped lab, books, material and student support services, in collaboration with Stand Up For Jamaica.
“We will meet the cost of non-tuition fees, apart from each student’s application and miscellaneous fees, which will also be addressed by the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean,” she informed.
Meanwhile, Director, Stand Up For Jamaica, André Schwab, said the initiative will provide inmates with the tools they need to become productive citizens and will assist in reducing recidivism.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dianne McIntosh, said education is a critical component in rehabilitating inmates. “It has been proven that robust education programmes, including the integration of higher education, reduces the risk of recidivism following the release of inmates into society,” she said.
Ms. McIntosh pointed out that more than 800 inmates are enrolled in educational programmes, both academic and vocational, across the nation’s five adult correctional centres.
“Our reports show that these programmes work, as approximately 54 per cent of our inmates enrolled fall within the remedial group, and it is my hope that with the introduction of online programmes, inmates may have the opportunity to increase access to a more diverse and extensive curriculum,” she said.
Source: JIS News