Equipping those ‘inside’ with skills for life outside

(From left) Negri Sembilan Prisons director Ahmad Mustaqim Che Bisi, Alexander, Gomez, Deputy Commissioner General of Prisons (Community) Datuk Ibrisam Abdul Rahman and Seremban Prison director Shahril Basir at the computer lab in Seremban Prison. — Photo courtesy of Human Development Programme, Seremban Prison

MOHAMAD (not his real name) had already served two years in Seremban Prison when he was selected for the first computer course in August last year, at the new computer lab there sponsored by Prison Fellowship Malaysia (PFM).

“It was a golden opportunity,” said the 44-year-old after completing the four-month course and collecting his certificate recently.

He had logistics and administrative experience but during his time in prison, he had forgotten some of his computer skills.

For Mohamad, the course in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel was a valuable refresher before his release in 15 months’ time.

“If I had to take the course outside, I would be shy because I’m older, and it would be expensive,” he added.

PFM is a non-governmental organisation that reaches out to inmates in nearly all the prisons in Malaysia, ex-offenders and their families.

It equipped the lab with 10 PCs, furniture and air-conditioners, while Sinaro Academy set up the computers as well as provided the course material and the certificates.

The computer lab is a pioneer project because it provides adult prisoners with computer training, said Seremban Prison deputy director Muhamad Naim Amir.

“If it succeeds, other prisons may follow,” he said.

Until now, the only inmates with access to computers have been students sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

PFM National director Stanley Gomez said the computer lab and class project had taken off thanks to the support of Seremban Prison.

“We are thinking about duplicating this in other prisons and looking for sponsors and partners to join us to equip inmates with these skill sets,” he said.

PFM proposed the lab and weekly two-hour classes to meet what they saw as a need.

“The men were coming back to prison because they couldn’t get a proper job outside and had no qualifications,” explained PFM Negri Sembilan chapter chairman Alexander Manisekaran.

“Being IT-literate will help the inmates succeed after they leave prison and help to prevent ‘culture shock’,” Muhamad Naim said.

One of the graduates in the first batch of 10 has already been released and has been hired as a storekeeper at a government-linked company.

PFM volunteer trainer Thiageswaran Tamilselvan, who has a degree in computer science, is confident the course he teaches will give inmates an edge in the job market.

“I found the students more teachable, adaptable and humble than people outside, even those who already had computer experience,” he said, adding that graduates of the first computer course were asking for an intermediate course to study video editing and Photoshop.

The second batch of 10 students started in March.

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