A pathway to university study is now available inside one of South Australia’s prisons, thanks to a pilot program launched by Flinders University, TAFE SA and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).
The Mobilong Prison program, run with DCS support at the Murray Bridge facility, is being taught by TAFE and Flinders University lecturers. The initiative provides the Flinders University Foundation Program – a six-month preparatory course for people without formal prerequisites who wish take up university study – to a group of 14 prisoners.
Professor Andrew Parkin, Flinders University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) said that similar programs interstate and overseas had not only resulted in educational benefits to the participants, but also helped to provide specific skills that ultimately increased their chances, after release, of finding employment and taking up useful roles in the community.
“Education has been shown to be an effective tool against recidivism, so a program like this can also produce substantial community benefits,” Professor Parkin said.
Correctional Services Minister Michael O’Brien said the Foundation Program at Mobilong, in addition to the strong focus on literacy and numeracy in all South Australia’s prisons, is paving the way for more prisoners to explore tertiary education upon their release.
“The economic and social benefits of tertiary education cannot be underestimated,” said the Minister.
“These prisoners have started a journey of tertiary education.”
American studies have shown that prisoner education programs also help to improve behaviour within the prison system.
The Flinders Foundation Program has been taught successfully on-campus for 30 years, and thanks to a 2012 agreement with TAFE SA is now accessible around the State. Last year over 600 people undertook the course with many subsequently enrolling in university this year.
“The Mobilong initiative extends the availability of our Foundation Program taught with TAFE to another section of society which traditionally has a low level of educational achievement,” Professor Parkin said.
“By offering a program that gives a head start to those intending to study at university, Flinders, TAFE SA and DCS are aiming to increase the likelihood of former prisoners re-entering the mainstream community harmoniously and productively.”
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