Inmates learn about literacy

Northward prison inmates recently showed off their talents and creative skills while learning about the value of literacy. 

Prison Service Literacy Day, themed “Literacy Equals Opportunity,” featured a showcase of musicians, wood crafters, painters, speakers and readers all taking center stage last week at the prison. Among the many works on display were painted wood coffee tables, a collection of paintings, leather works with intricate details and carved model ships. 

The day also gave prisoners the opportunity to win special gifts, view performances from invited guests and inmates, listen to talented musicians and take in a performance by prison band “The Reformers.” 

“The day was about demonstrating how literacy can be part of the jigsaw that will give inmates opportunities to break the cycle of offending,” said prison director Neil Lavis. 

He added, “Changing attitudes is not only about changing prisoners’ perspectives, but also about changing attitudes of those who work and live outside the fence to move away from the ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ mantra, to a balanced, rehabilitative approach. 

“This can only be done by working with the community and demonstrating success in a new way.”  

Mr. Lavis said he was encouraged by the level of support the prison was receiving from people who shared that vision. 

“Changing lives is about working with offenders to deal with risk factors, to use a holistic approach that is covered by the seven … pathways [to prevent re-offending],” he said, with one of those pathways being literacy. 

“All too often, we hear about the negative side of prisons, but days like Literacy Day give us the platform to start showing how we can change lives by reducing the offending and making society a safer place through learning,” he said. 

Aduke Joseph-Caesar, the prison’s deputy director of rehabilitation, added, “We wanted to give the inmates the opportunity to understand what it means to read, which helps give them the opportunity to reintegrate into society and live successful lives.”