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The Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre’s information technology (IT) laboratory, which is housed at the centre’s site in Downtown, Kingston, was officially opened today (January 17).
This laboratory is envisioned as a training facility that will enable inmates to grasp literacy skills, become proficient in audio and video production, and also equip themselves with computer software skills.
The opening comes against the background of a partnership that has been forged between the Department of Corrections and One Stop Computer Shop, with the objective being the expansion of the Students Expressing Truth (SET) computer programme to inmates at both the Tower Street and St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centres.
Addressing the ceremony, which was attended by inmates, senior members from the Corrections Department, and members of the media, Commissioner of Corrections, Major Richard Reese, said that the Tower Street and St. Catherine Correctional Centres posed a significant challenge, given the high inmate population and limited facilities.
“It therefore means that the Department has to identify programmes which can benefit the vast number of inmates . This information technology laboratory, which is being commissioned this morning, is another project in the right step,” Major Reese said.
He stressed that the Department of Correction was committed to a population reduction strategy, having lowered the number of inmates registered from 1,825 to 1,629.
Another element of the population reduction strategy that Commissioner Reese highlighted is the future implementation of a transition centre at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre. There are plans in the pipeline for the centre to be expanded over time.
In respect to other focus areas geared towards the rehabilitation of inmates, he revealed that the Department was currently implementing a new risk needs assessment instrument that would inform sentence planning and case management.
Entrepreneur, Kevin Wallen, who owns One Stop Computer Shop and who spearheaded the establishment of the computer laboratory at Tower Street, said its introduction was intended to enhance the inmates’ literacy abilities where they had none, and also provide them with the opportunity to acquire computer skills.
“The men that are here are strong, able-bodied individuals that are supposed to be able to survive when they come back out on the road, and if we can provide them with skills that they can use to survive, then we could be in much better shape than we are now,” Mr. Wallen said.
Guest Speaker, Dr. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, encouraged the inmates to utilise the opportunity given to them by the presence of the computer laboratory, to improve themselves.
Dr. Carter, a former boxing champion who was wrongfully accused and imprisoned, told the inmates that he could empathise with their feelings of isolation and bitterness, having been imprisoned for 19 years.
He told the inmates that, “it is what you do right here today that is going to determine your tomorrow”.
The Department of Corrections partnership with One Stop Computer Shop dates back to June 2002, when the company’s Managing Director, Kevin Wallen, who is a volunteer at the South Camp Adult Correctional Centre, assisted in the establishment of the SET programme, to provide technology training for the male inmates at that facility.
The initiative is aimed at bolstering the employability of incarcerated men, once they have been released. More than two years later, the programme has been deemed a qualified success, with more than 80 inmates having participated in the project, and acquired useful skills.