Corrections has completed a programme to equip all its prisons with secure computer suites that allow prisoners access to online learning tools, Corrections Minister Louise Upston says.
“With new Secure Online Learning (SOL) suites being opened at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, Waikeria and Invercargill Prisons, all Corrections prisons now have access to these secure, controlled and monitored learning environments,” says Ms Upston.
The SOL suites give prison-based learners access to secure computer suites and online tools that allows them to engage in education, life skills, employment and reintegration-focused training.
“Online learning appeals to many people who have had difficulties engaging in traditional educational methods and is especially appealing to the younger prison population,” says Ms Upston.
“Using these learning tools also allows prisoners to develop basic IT skills, something valued by many employers and training providers.”
Up to nine prisoners can use a suite at any one time and access pre-approved applications and websites to use the online learning tools. All prisoners using SOL are supervised while they learn and have to pass a rigorous selection process. A secure IT solution ensures they cannot navigate away from the sites that they have been authorised to use.
The SOL project was announced in August 2015 after a two-year pilot at Christchurch Men’s Prison and has been progressively implemented across the Corrections estate.
"This project has already proven successful with around 1200 learners using the current suites in 2016,” says Ms Upston.
Further work to come includes the introduction of fingerprint technology to ensure safer and more secure prisoner logins, a separate literacy and numeracy assessment portal to encourage the wider use of online assessment tools and Microsoft Excel, Power Point and Publisher. The number of pre-approved websites will also increase from 11 to more than 20.
“Education is key to prisoners’ reintegration and motivating them to make a positive change to their lives,” says Ms Upston.
“I’m delighted we’re able to provide prisoners with more opportunities to further their education and develop positive study habits and confidence.”