WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?

Quality education is fundamental in creating future employment opportunities for prison inmates, building life skills and reducing the risk of re-offending. However, being an adult learner can be difficult, and this difficulty is a significant barrier for inmates in correctional facilities, many of whom have not completed schooling beyond year 10. With this in mind Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) approached us with an inspired vision to create a space that will provide inmates with access to “dynamic 21st century learning”, to give them an opportunity to transform themselves, and to support their re-integration into society.

HOW DID WE REFRAME IT?

Starting with a view of education as an agent for changing the life prospects of inmates, we worked closely with CSNSW to reshape educational support in correctional facilities through innovative design. To encourage the inmates’ appetite for learning, our design strategy emphasised community and connectivity. The design of the interior learning spaces includes a distinctive curved roof with a flexible interior and unique group bench working spaces which link the classroom with landscaped areas outside. The use of indoor as well as outdoor spaces aims to encourage inmates to engage in personal reflection and to learn outside as well as inside.

We worked in a co-design approach, engaging CSNSW staff, educators and inmates at all stages of the design process. We ran workshops onsite at two prison, and others at UTS. Within three months CSNSW’s Assistant Commissioner approved the architectural design and landscaping models of our collaborative design and the Intensive Learning Centre was ready for construction.

WHAT WAS OUR IMPACT?

The first Intensive Learning Centre was officially opened in Kempsey in April 2014, with all furnishings and landscape designed by the team and built by staff and inmates at St Heliers Correctional Centre. Funds provided from the NSW Government for education and training programs in prison will now be used by CSNSW to implement more ILCs across the state.

Our design process on the Intensive Learning Centres was recognised by the CSNSW as being highly inclusive and will be used as a benchmark for future projects.

To see a video of the building and installation of the ILC click here to view the video on the Sydney Morning Herald website.