Friday, June 21, 2024

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HomeIssue 2Record number of prisoners graduate

Record number of prisoners graduate

p2102elferinkjohnokLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – This month a record number of prisoners graduated from certificate courses delivered by Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) at Northern Territory correctional centres.
A total of 83 certificates will be awarded in graduation ceremonies at the Darwin Correction Centre (DCC) and the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (ASCC), representing a 30 per cent increase from the last graduation event in December 2015.
The focus of the Country Liberals Government on rehabilitating prisoners and equipping them to start new productive lives when they leave prison is demonstrated by the record number of prisoners graduating this month from vocational courses.
The courses, in subjects ranging from kitchen skills to business and visual arts, are delivered by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education staff at purpose-built teaching centres within the DCC and ASCC precincts.
The certificates to be awarded include qualifications in Resources and Infrastructure Operations, Construction, Indigenous Environmental Health, Visual Arts, Agrifood Operations, Kitchen Operations, Engineering and Business.
From the outset the Northern Territory Government had determined to make prisoners work-ready.
A work-ready person can do much more for their own salvation than all of the good intentions of a welfare based approach.
We know that when a prisoner participates in Sentenced to a Job recidivism rates plummet.
Whilst this program is in early days we are seeing preliminary rates closer to 20% compared with 50% for those who do not participate in the program.
A total of 57 DCC inmates will receive their graduation certificates today. A further 19 prisoners, who were among the current cohort earning qualifications, have already been released from prison after completing their sentences.
Among the DCC graduates are four female prisoners who all earned certificates in Visual Arts.
Seven prisoners at ASCC received awards for qualifications in Family Wellbeing, Conservation and Land Management and Visual Arts, at their graduation ceremony which was held on March 23.
The certificate courses are delivered by the BIITE staff at purpose-built teaching centres within the DCC and ASCC precincts.
John Elferink (pictured)
Minister for Correctional Services


  1. It appears that no prisoners have graduated from literacy and numeracy courses.
    They can’t because the Minister axed them.
    But at least 90% are functionally illiterate.
    Yet we are told that they have achieved qualifications in Resources and Infrastructure Operations, Indigenous Environmental Health, Agrifood Operations, Engineering and Business.
    This is sounding similar to the teacher graduates from BIITE that were far from work ready and have never worked as teachers.
    How many ex prisoners have sustained employment on release?
    Sentenced to a Job needs to do a lot more than qualify illiterate prisoners in quickie TAFE courses to get them work easy and reduce recidivism.

  2. The best way to get an education or a job is to break the law. If you lose your job or want to upskill get another qualification, break the law. It’s free and all meals and accommodation are paid for.

  3. This initiative was introduced by the former NT Labor government. Now being strengthened by the incumbents.
    Good points, Jack. Taking away numeracy and literacy programs in lieu of sending prisoners out to work is a poor long-term investment. Prisoners being sent out to work instead of attending their offender programs is also a poor decision. They need to attend those as part of their rehabilitation.
    We deserve better outcomes in our prison system.
    Phil Walcott
    Independent Candidate for Braitling

  4. @ Phil, Jack: Corrections brought in a program called QuickSmart a couple of years ago. While they were looking at it, they sought our advice.
    It’s a really good program with great results – from memory, it had seriously good figures from just an hour and a half a week.
    The problem is that all of those results were with young people still in school, so it was basically a remedial program, not L and N.
    Without intensive educational support, we didn’t see how it could possibly work.
    We told Mr Middlebrook that but they went ahead with it anyway, just found other providers.
    The Minister has risen to his hind legs about it in Parliament a couple of times but it certainly is not achieving the results they hoped for.
    What do I want from the next Parliaments? Ministers, minders and senior bureaucrats who actually take well intentioned advice from people who know something about what they are talking about.

  5. Spot on Peter, Quicksmart is a school remedial program and not a stand alone literacy program for adults, let alone Aboriginal prisoners.
    In the prisons it’s a research project, chosen partly because it can be delivered by an untrained person, typically parents in schools.
    It saves money by not needing a qualified teacher.
    Semi literate prisoners are trained to teach fully illiterate ones.
    The graduates don’t get a recognised award because Quicksmart isn’t recognised by any TAFE or other authority.
    It’s an absolute disgrace that the prisons don’t even offer a proper course in reading and writing.
    Just how job ready can an illiterate prisoner be?
    Jobs in engineering, business, Infrastructure Operations? lol.

  6. @ Jack: “Semi literate prisoners are trained to teach fully illiterate ones.” Change “prisoners” for “Ministers” and you have just described NT Parliament!
    Personally, I don’t believe Sentenced to a Job is the answer (and I don’t believe Elf’s numbers in his missive, either) – Sentenced to a Proper Education may deliver much better results.
    If you read the Supreme Court sentencing remarks, how many times a month do you NOT see comments like “the prisoner attended such and such a school (usually one with a football curriculum) to year 10, 11 or 12 but cannot read and write English”.
    Accelerated literacy programs work well providing there is intensive support attached.


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