EAST NEW BRITAIN PRISONERS ALLOWED TO CONTINUE STUDIES OUTSIDE JAIL

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 17, 2000 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Kerevat jail in East New Britain has achieved another milestone by allowing five of its inmates to return to school while serving their sentences in jail.

No other jail in the country has done this.

Jail commander Superintendent Kelly Karella said he wants to prove to the ordinary citizens of this country that people who are sent to jail for various offences, either serious or not so serious, are human beings and as such, they have the right to be treated as such.

The five young inmates who will continue their formal education outside of jail are still serving terms in jail ranging from two to eight years for various crimes committed in 1998 and 1999. Four of them are pursing matriculation studies at the University Center at Vunadidir while one is enrolled in external studies with the College of Distance Education (CODE) in the province.

Superintendent Karella said he was not afraid to try this plan out at Kerevat jail.

"Some of these young people could have gone on to national high school or even the universities but because they were convicted, their chances of furthering their studies were denied. We saw their potential and decided to allow them time off to continue their studies," Mr Karella said.

Last year the Catholic Church paid for the students’ school fees. This year their own parents have been asked to meet their school fees requirements.

Superintendent Karella is also running a special literacy course in jail for all the 300 inmates. He said apart from religious programs being conducted on a regular basis by various church denominations, he was approached by education authorities in the province to see if reading and writing lessons could be conducted weekly for the inmates.

A classroom is being built specifically for this purpose at Kerevat. The project is self-help and as soon as it is completed, literacy classes will start.

"The idea is to get away from the colonial slavery type of punishment where inmates are treated as slaves and sometimes sub-humans. We don’t want to see the big-line attitude anymore.

"Every prisoner must be treated as equal in the eyes of God and the law of this land, irrespective of the seriousness of his or her crime. If isolating them from their loved ones and denying them much of the social privileges is not enough punishment, then how much more punishment do they deserve?

"These people are human beings and must therefore be treated like human beings. If their future is to be corrected and the adjusting back to their society is to be guaranteed, we need to approach their rehabilitation in jail from a more humane angle. That’s what we are doing here at Kerevat jail," Mr Karella said.

For the 12 female inmates at the jail, sewing, baking, small-scale farming and (soon) rabbit farming will be introduced to keep them occupied. The female inmates will also attend religious and literacy classes like their male counterparts.

Mr Karella said Kerevat jail, being a major jail in the Islands region, has "everything going for it" in terms of self-sufficiency and human resource development. However, he said assistance from the East New Britain provincial government and the national government was not forthcoming as anticipated.

He said that the jail would like to do more in its rehabilitation exercise but funding was its only setback.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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