EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2017. Making the Connection projects aims to introduce new technologies into correctional jurisdictions in Australia. Thanks to the project, the proportion of eligible inmates engaged with higher education has risen in the area.
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Believing that digital higher education is important for all, the project lead by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) introduces internet-independent technologies for Australia correctional centres. The aim is to support the higher online education of inmates.
“We want to give prisoners the opportunity to imagine alternative futures for themselves and for their families. We want to help prisoners develop the skills that will enable them to live a meaningful life on release from custody and stop them coming back to prison,” Helen Farley explains the aims of the project.
Prisoner inmates often come from low socio-economic backgrounds, are more likely to have had negative educational experiences and have a lower level of education compared to the general population.
“Prisoners are prohibited from using the internet and most universities are reliant on the internet for the delivery of their programs and courses,” Helen Farley summarises the dilemma. This the project developed new technologies to overcome the dilemma.
The project uses two technologies to provide higher digital education to inmates. The first one is a server-based solution and the second one is a notebook computer, both from the university. Five USQ programmes have been used on these devices, for example the diploma of Arts of the diploma of Science. In addition, career planning and transition tools have been developed as part of the project.
Over the three and a half years of the project has enrolled around 1000 prisoner students in 30 prisons in four Australian states.
“There is a retention rate of 77% which is higher than the university average! The prisoners who are participating tell us that for them it is lifechanging,” Helen Farley says.
To date, the project is active in or negotiating with all Australian correctional jurisdictions and has attracted some 1700 course enrolments. Thanks to the successful results, strong relationships have been formed with the correctional jurisdictions. In Queensland, the state in which the initiative started, the proportion of eligible inmates that has engaged with higher education has risen from 3.1% to 6.2% over the three years of the project.
Text: Lou-Andréa Pinson and Helka Repo
Photo: Making the Connection project