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IT for the Inmates at Bangkhen Central Women’s Prison

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn believes that if prison inmates are trained in skills that are of a practical use and in high demand, such as computer skills, they will have a better chance of finding a good job after their sentences are finished and of becoming good citizens of benefit to society. Acting on this belief, Her Royal Highness launched the IT for Inmates Programme under the Princess’s IT Project.

The Programme began at Bangkhen Central Women’s Prison at Khlong Prem in 1997. The initial batch of equipment donated to the prison comprised 20 computers and three printers. The prison set up a computer centre and offered a 126-hour computer training course, complying with Department of Non-Formal Education standards and employing personnel from the Department to conduct the course. The course was very well received by the prison inmates, and consequently in 1999 the Programme was extended to the Central Correction Facility for Drug Addicts and then in 2000 to Bangkok Special Prison.

To be accepted onto the courses, the inmates must be between 18 and 35 years old, be able to type, have at least a primary school (or grade 9) education, and must never have learned computers before. From 1997 to 2003, the Bangkhen Women’s Prison conducted the course 18 times with 343 inmates successfully graduating.

In 1992, the Technical Information Access Center under the National Science and Technology Development Agency hired the prison inmates to type Thai and English journal indexes. This was the first typing job the inmates had received. This job assignment not only gave them an opportunity to practise their new skills but also allowed them to earn money. At present, numerous organizations offer the inmates typing jobs. Between 1992 and 2003, the inmates earned a combined total of approximately 160,000 baht in this way.

Impact

By 2002, many of the computers Bangkhen Women’s Prison had initially received from HRH Princess Sirindhorn’s IT Project had begun to wear out. At the same time, the prison wanted to offer more advanced computer training, such as use of graphics applications, which required computers with higher specifications. In response, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn donated a new batch of computers with the necessary capacity. With these, the inmates are able to undertake graphics-related jobs such as making cards and leaflets and image retouching.

At present, the average accumulated income generated as a result of this Programme is about 50,000 baht per month. Moreover, because of the computer skills they have, many former inmates who took courses under the Programme are now employed in jobs that require computers.

In 2003, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn provided an opportunity for the inmates to contribute to society by taking part in the production of audio books for the blind. This project came about through collaboration among three bodies: the Princess’ IT Project, the Thai Blind Association and Bangkhen Women’s Prison. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn provided financial support to buy four new computers, build two recording studios, and to bring in both an expert from the Daisy Consortium in Japan, to train all parties involved on how to make the recordings, and a local expert to give training on appropriate reading techniques. Initially, some 47 inmates participated in the project, 35 of whom read, while the other 12 carried out audio editing using the computers. By the end of 2003, this group of inmates was expected to have produced a total of 1,000 hours of audio books.