Yesterday I attented the launch of the first tuXlab installed in a prison. This tuXlab has been installed in the womens section at Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. The second prison tuXlab is due for installation shortly in Malmesbury Prison, which is a medium security prison. The problem with many criminals are that they are in for petty crime, and they have a poor education, when they get back into the ‘real world’, they are jobless again and end up in prison again quickly. As a measure to fix this, the Department of Correctional Services are putting renewed focus on rehabilitation and skills development. The tuXlab set up is primarily designed for kids, although it works great for the inmates, many of them who haven’t ever seen a computer before, and some of them who can’t even read or write.
The minister of the DCS, Ngconde Balfour also attended, along with the deputy minister and commisioner of correctional services, and we had a brief breakfast as part of the launch. Zelda Holtzman, CEO of the Shuttleworth Foundation, also talked and stressed the importance of rehabilitation and public social partnerships.
There’s a strong possibility that another 30 prison labs will be rolled-out in the next 12 months or so, meaining that many people with lots of time will be able to learn more about Linux and open source software, and by the time they have finished their sentence, they may be skilled enough to make a living on their own.
Inmates will receive training at least 4 days a week, alternating between OpenICDL training and LPI training. Initially, 20 people from each prison will be eligable for writing the certification exams, although training will be open for nearly everyone who is interested.
The mood at the prison yesterday was very serious, yet optimistic, a combination that I don’t see very often, but a combination I definately enjoy seeing. There’s a great sense of support from the government, and co-operation from the prisons, even the inmates. I think it’s great that people who really have absolutely nothing, can get another chance to make something of themselves, and also that they get to do this using Ubuntu, although, there’s been some controversy over this before on the CLUG lists. Some people still have the old-fasioned notion that prisoners are in prison just for punishment, and that rehabilitation programs are just an incentive for people to get into prison. The good thing about that thread was that it made people think a bit about prison reform. TBC…