Prisoners in Jamaica are to be given access to university-level education programmes during their time behind bars. The move comes as part of a wider rehabilitation scheme to help convicted criminals adapt to life outside and find employment on finishing their sentences.
Representatives of the US project, Prison-to-College Pipeline, plan to visit Jamaica this month to discuss the scheme’s expansion into the Caribbean region in collaboration with the University of the West Indies.
The programme was first announced a year ago, but was delayed due to lack of funding. Donations to the sum of $100,000 (£71,133) have since been collected, fundraisers said.
Baz Dreisinger, a professor of English at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and founding academic director of the Prison-to-College Pipeline, told the Jamaica Observer that the project aimed to “break the stigma that those who have been incarcerated are vastly different” to the rest of society.
Courses run through the Prison-to-College Pipeline will be equivalent to a higher education degree course and incorporate “re-entry planning” for prisoners preparing to finish their sentence. It is expected that academics will visit the institutions to deliver lectures, project coordinators said.
Previous education programmes offering college-level education in Jamaican prisons have proven to be successful. Last year, human rights group Stand Up for Jamaica announced figures that 82 per cent of Jamaican inmates had successfully completed at least one subject in the regional standard Caribbean Secondary Certificate Examinations, helped by financial aid from the European Union.