Prisoners in the state of Victoria, Australia, will be part of new plans designed to try and meet prisoners’ educational needs immediately upon entry into the system. The $78 million (AUD) program aims to dramatically improve prisoner access to instruction from a variety of universities, colleges, and institutes across the region.
Of particular note is the fact that basic numeracy and literacy proficiency tests will be applied both to those entering for both long-term and short-term (including remand) sentences alike. As in the United States, many prisoners do not possess even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills, making gainful employment post-release a virtual impossibility. Prisons in the state will also utilize a new network system, which links up computers to afford inmates continuity of studies. One of the greatest barriers faced by prisoners in the U.S. is their inability to continue studies, and to lose credits when they move to a facility that does not support their previous study program.
Such changes are likely the result of pressure to improve the state’s penal system, which currently reports an alarmingly high recidivism rate of nearly 50%. The state has been criticized by ombudspersons charged with examining the problems inherent to the system, specifically the serious lack of education and vocational training available to incarcerated individuals. If this trend isn’t reversed, prisons in the region will quickly be overwhelmed, with its rehabilitative capacity equally taxed. The end result, of course, is predictable: a never-ending cycle of recidivism.