COMMUNITY DRIVERS: Sandals Foundation bolsters education behind bars | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

Some 120 inmates at the Tower Street and South Camp Adult Correctional facilities are set to participate in this year’s sitting of the high school leaving examination, the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), thanks to a donation from Sandals Foundation.

The philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) has donated over $1 million to Stand Up For Jamaica (SUFJ), a human rights organisation that spearheads educational programmes in correctional centres across the island, as part of its belief in the power of second chances and its ongoing efforts to support educational development.

Sandals Foundation Executive Director, Heidi Clarke, stated that the donation demonstrates the foundation’s strong support for inmate rehabilitation and education at all levels.

“Access to education provides gateways of endless possibilities for all. This donation covers the provision of the teachers’ salaries, textbooks and school supplies, and builds upon our previous efforts of ensuring that inmates have access to the educational resources they need to rebuild their lives after incarceration,” she said.

Peter Johnson, a former inmate at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, shared how the educational courses gave him hope.

“When I was inside and found out about these educational opportunities, I jumped at the chance because it gave me something to look forward to. These initiatives give men hope by getting them out of jail cells and into classrooms.”

Johnson went on to explain how he became interested in computer courses, and how the foundation’s 2019 outfitting of the labs with state-of-the-art computer rooms and updated programming helped with acquiring society’s mainstream certifications, particularly the CSEC and Heart certification programmes.

“When Sandals Foundation came on board, they upgraded the labs and it made a huge difference for us. Having previously completed prison-recognised Microsoft Suite courses, the foundation’s donation enabled us to take HEART Trust/NTA Data Operation courses. This brought us tremendous joy as these certificates are recognised outside of prison.”

Johnson emphasised the significance of the certification in his rehabilitation and reintegration into society, particularly in his job search.

“Because I had this certificate, I was able to apply for jobs in the data operations field after I got out. It isn’t labelled as a prison certificate, and this gave me the opportunity to compete for positions in society’s technology field,” he said.

“I am very grateful.” Johnson added, “Having the opportunity to be trained and certified, as well as to take CSEC exams, gives us all a better chance of preparing for life after prison.”

Carla Gullotta, Executive Director of SUFJ, added: “The entire Board of Directors of Stand Up For Jamaica is extremely grateful for the Sandals Foundation’s continued support. We’ve seen how much access to educational resources has aided inmates’ rehabilitation and reintegration processes, positively impacting their lives.

A key component of Sandals Foundation’s work is to help to ensure that all members of society have access to inclusive and equitable educational programmes and learning opportunities.

In this the third year of partnership with Stand Up For Jamaica, both entities continue to inspire hope, effect positive change, and share the power of second chances.