An inmate-led weekend program at the Macquarie Correctional Centre is giving inmates lifelong, practical skills that is drastically decreasing their chances of re-offending.
The program began about six weeks ago and will run for a total of 10 weeks. Approximately 120 inmates have been spending their weekends learning either art, woodwork, or music.
About 65 inmates have been involved in the music and art classes as part of their structured day.
Delivered by Orana Arts, the idea for the inmate lead classes developed after the centre realised a large number of other inmates wanted to learn those skills, but couldn't due to full-time work and educational commitments.
One inmate who has been teaching the two-day weekend art class said the other inmates have been really responsive.
"Most of the guys in the class couldn't even paint (when we first started) and they've gone on to actually pulling off a portrait," he explained.
The inmate teacher hopes to pursue an art career once he leaves Macquarie Correctional Centre.
"This has been great training for me, it's been more helpful for me than any program I could have done. It's really got my career (dreams) going," he said.
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The art inmate teacher explained that in a correctional centre compliments weren't easily given.
"Art is one way for the guys to actually do something and you can see a lot of them are really proud of what they've done," he said.
He added the program is giving the other inmates the skills to work on a project from start to finish and hopes it can be expanded.
"It's been great teaching the boys and hopefully we can keep it going," he said. "They've responded really well to it and it's nice to see them improve (each week).
The inmate art teacher will also be entering a piece of work into the Corrective Services NSW 2020 Archibald prize.
Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts said the initiative will allow inmates to gain training and assessment qualifications.
"We know that having inmates engaged in education and work opportunities inside prison drastically decreases their chances of re-offending post-release," he said. "Learning new skills is not only a pro-social activity; it's a step towards rehabilitation."
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Senior Assistant Superintendent Wayne Bywater said he was very proud of all the inmates involved in the weekend programs.
"Because they get something out of it. They actually want to pass on some of their skills and we've got some very talented inmates in the centre," he explained.
Another inmate has been leading the craft woodwork program, where he is teaching other inmates how to make replica boats using everyday items like paddlepop sticks and blankets.
The 12 inmates in the weekend class made replicas of the San Salvador and the Endeavour ships.
"I didn't know I had this skill about myself," the inmate teacher explained.
"It's good to pass that knowledge on to people."
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Senior Assistant Superintendent Wayne Bywater said the initiative was a great concept because not only does it keep the inmates busy, but also helpful to inmates who may suffer with a mental illness.
He said they want to ensure inmates leave the centre with qualifications and skills to help prevent them from re-offending.
"Everyone wants to learn or achieve something and this is a win-win situation," Senior Assistant Superintendent Wayne Bywater said.
Corrective Services NSW Assistant Commissioner Corrections Policy and Strategy Luke Grant said the program is one of several work and education opportunities at the 400 bed centre.
"Inmates' days are carefully structured for 100 per cent employment and engagement in programs and education spread over a 15-hour day," he said.
"This intense focus on work, programs, education and case management is just one of the many strategies we're using to boost inmate rehabilitation and reduce the risk of inmates re-offending."