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HMP Northward Expands

The Governor unveils the plaque to officially open the education centre, accompanied by Prison Director Dwight Scott.

Three new facilities at Her Majesty's Prison Northward officially came on stream recently when His Excellency the Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO, snipped ribbons and unveiled plaques.

The Governor officially opened a new educational facility, a fully equipped gymnasium and a staff training facility last month.

"I am very impressed by the quality of work and the fact that the inmates provided all the labour. There are talented persons here," Mr Jack said.

Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation Dr. Bill Rattray, who joined Prison Director Dwight Scott and other senior prison officers during the Governor's tour of the new premises, said that another building is also nearing completion. Adjoining the education centre, it will house the prison clinic and offices. He said that the labour for this additional project is again being provided in-house.

The brightly painted, two-storey educational centre holds two main teaching rooms, an important aspect since as many as 20 inmates sometimes receive remedial English reading lessons there. Acting Prison Educational Coordinator Alton McDonald explained that Spanish-speaking inmates who are learning to speak English are included in this number. Lessons are taught weekly by Teaching Coordinator Michelle Pentney and a team of volunteers.

Additionally, GED (General Educational Development) lessons are taught Monday to Friday. Mr McDonald said that GED certification involves passing five tests that confirm North American high school-level academic equivalency. Last year, of ten inmates who took the exams, three passed all papers while the remainder passed some and are continuing.

He added that inmates also have access to art education and other online certification programmes.

Mr. McDonald further explained that a growing number of prisoners participate in cognitive behavioural groupwork programmes based on formal risk and needs assessment to assist rehabilitation and curb recidivism. Two prison forensic psychologists based at Northward, with a team of specially trained prison officers, run these programmes, he said.

Next on the prison's agenda for early 2009 is a computer education programme to replace one destroyed during Hurricane Ivan.

Upon entering the spacious gymnasium equipped with rowing, cycling, treadmill and stair-climber machines in addition to weights, the Governor was again impressed by all he saw. His response to the two-storey building that houses the staff training facility and doubles as a hurricane shelter was similar.

Director Scott explained that the downstairs hall houses a "collapsible cell" for training purposes. He added that the large upstairs training facility would be available to other government departments for training purposes at "a nominal fee."

Lauding the contribution of volunteers at the educational centre, the Governor commented, "For rehabilitation to work, we will need the community to actively partner with government, and we especially need the business sector to provide jobs for those released.

"With this emphasis on rehabilitation, inmates are being helped to improve their attitudes and skills. The goal is to ease their re-entry into the mainstream," he concluded.

For further information contact: Bina Mani