University ‘campus’ opens in Kent prison.

‘Swaleside, with 1,100 inmates, is the first prison to create a university-like campus, the Open Academy, which opened last September. Unlike most jails, where classrooms are separate from cells and living areas, student prisoners live and learn on A-wing. In addition to 85 single-occupancy cells, the academy has three classrooms. Two are study libraries, while the third – the IT suite – contains a “virtual campus” where students can type up assignments and send them off electronically.

All 85 students have access to tutors – through Skype, email, and some visits – and hundreds of courses are available, from accounting to zoology. Eight prisoners have been recruited as skills advisers to encourage inmates to join the project. The advisers are paid £30 a week, a more than decent wage in prison. One, Anton, is studying for a degree in social sciences; another, Matt, is doing a business and management course; while a third, Ohene, plans to study psychology and wants to be a youth worker when he is released. He says it’s “a blessing” to be on A-wing.

Any prisoner is eligible for the scheme as long as they have had security clearance, and successful candidates are selected by the prisoner skills advisers. Uniquely, the academy is intended to enable inmates and prison staff to study together, with the aim of enhancing staff-prisoner relationships and creating a harmonious environment.’ - Guardian


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