The Ministry of National Security through the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Stand Up for Jamaica and the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to provide full-tuition scholarships to four inmates and one correctional officer from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre.
The UCC has agreed to provide the two-year scholarships for an online Associate of Science Degree in Business Administration, each valued at J$600,000 for the period. The pilot project commences this month and is expected to expand to other correctional facilities.
Minister of State in the Ministry, the Hon. Rudyard Spencer, lauded the initiative as a substantial addition to the rehabilitation programme. “I wish to congratulate those who were identified to participate in such a life-changing opportunity. We’ve heard the cry of ex-offenders who face difficulties qualifying for employment opportunities because of education limitations. Therefore, we are increasing the marketability of inmates and officers by providing sustainable scholarships and grants, through worthwhile partnerships”, said Minister Spencer.
A selection committee, including education coordinators in the DCS, identified the five participants based on good behaviour, achievements in existing educational programmes, and their qualifications in the CSEC examinations.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Ms. Dianne McIntosh, said “robust education programmes, including the integration of higher education, reduce the risk of recidivism, following the release of inmates into society. Currently, over 800 inmates are enrolled in education programmes, both academic and vocational, across five adult correctional centres under the DCS”. Ms. McIntosh said that approximately 54 per cent of inmates enrolled in educational programmes under DCS, start at remedial level and it is the aim of the department to move them to proficiency and advanced levels.
In addition to receiving full-tuition scholarships, the recipients will also receive books, learning materials and tutorial support from the DCS and Stand Up for Jamaica. The UCC will also bear the cost of application and miscellaneous fees for each student, for the stipulated duration of the study.
Professor Bernadette Warner, Executive Vice President/Executive Chancellor at UCC said “The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean is pleased to execute this innovative MOU with DCS and Stand Up for Jamaica, a non-governmental human rights organization, with a mission that includes the provision of education to incarcerated offenders, with the goal of enhanced rehabilitation. All three Parties share a commitment to make a difference to the problem of recidivism among offenders who have served their sentences, and to Jamaica’s socioeconomic development, by means of expanding the reach of higher education into our nation’s correctional facilities.