x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Skills taught for life beyond cell bars

Inmates at Dubai Central Prison are offered a range of programmes to prepare them for life on the outside.

DUBAI // Preparing inmates to return to society begins as soon as they arrive at Dubai Central Prison.

Each inmate is assigned to a programme, be it learning a craft or furthering their education.

"Having rehabilitation programmes for prisoners that put them on the right track after they leave the prison is a main objective for us," said Major General Mohammed al Suwaidi, the head of the punitive establishments department.

The prison workshop is open daily from 8am to noon and is run by the inmates. Newcomers are taught the ropes by more experienced prisoners. A number of skills are taught. In the primary programme inmates are given the opportunity to learn to produce furniture such as cabinets, tables, chairs, traditional wooden boxes and even ornamental dhows.

Each person allowed to work in this section has passed a psychological evaluation to determine if it is safe for them to be around sharp tools, according to the prison administration. All the items produced are sold by police at a stand in Global Village.

In the tailoring section, inmates make the prison uniforms, producing about 100 pieces a day. Another course teaches computer skills.

There is also a mechanics workshop, which, like some others, can lead to a vocational training certificate. These documents "help prisoners in finding a job after they finish their jail term", said Captain Abdullah Saed, an official at the education section. "There is nothing on these certificates to indicate that they were acquired in prison," he added.

Perhaps their most innovative programme under development is a television and radio station.

"We are currently developing the station and are purchasing the necessary equipment to be able to broadcast," said Gen al Suwaidi.

When prisoners are not at work, they can use the library, which is stocked with 4,500 books in 27 languages, as well as newspapers and magazines.

Every month, Dubai's public libraries lend another 450 to 600 books.