ALTERNATIVE LEARNING SYSTEM: A CORRECTIONAL PERSPECTIVE
Education in the prison community serves as the backbone of correctional rehabilitation. As a matter of fact, education is in itself what rehabilitation in correctional facilities is all about. It is the central program from where all significant programs revolve. It promotes values, skills, standards and principles: matters that equip the most dangerous sector of our society to reform and recuperate from an undisciplined past.
Prison education was for sometime a fledging program, most of the time, colliding with security concerns. But there was no other way to realize the mandate of corrections unless education gains ground and a convincing following in the prison community.
It was however only in the early 80s that prison education has been given the necessary impetus in the definition of rehabilitation. From there various expression of education has been offered formally. This would include the formal and the informal educational processes.
Under the informal education set up, skills and vocational training programs were organized. It was conducted under various tutelage, most of the program bearers would come from the private sector. These skills training were aimed at production. Through joint venture agreements, the private sector would introduce trainors tutoring prisoners towards a specific skill aimed at producing a product for marketing.
Under the formal education set up, correctional administration has organized schools in all penal establishments aimed at compulsory literary classes, elementary, secondary and tertiary education. In New Bilibid Prison and subsequently in Davao Penal Colony, tertiary education has been a regular program for the last several years. In NBP the college program is centered along BS Commerce major in Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Perpetual Help University System. In Davao Penal Colony, it is AB Philosophy major in Theology through St. Ignatius Institute of Theological Studies , a local branch of Ateneo de Davao University.
But the most dramatic transformation of prison education came at the heels of the Alternative Learning System when it was introduced sometime in the early 2000s. Slowly, the prison community especially in Davao Penal Colony would change the mood of the prison community. From a very depressive and gloomy prison climate, the ALS program gradually improved the outlook of the prisoners. Prison Education became the centerpiece, not only of rehabilitation but also of security. ALS served as the reagent that would blend rehabilitation principles with that of security tenets. Prison custodial personnel easily became instructional managers and prisoners almost overnight became zealous bona fide students.
A decade later, the passing rate of prisoners participating in the yearly examination trek would achieve a 100% mark. The newly organized Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao, a satellite prison of Davao Penal Colony would likewise register a 100% successful passing rate and with higher grades at that. Both male and female inmate ALS passers would eventually contribute to a higher grade rating representing Davao del Norte for the whole Eastern Mindanao.
The dramatic transformation of prison from a miserable sanctuary of hopelessly grim inmates to vibrant society of learners came into view at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao. It was organized in September 2007 and it was perceived as a Siberian prison outpost where no inmate would survive for a year. The introduction of ALS into the mainstream of its regular program effectively reversed the prevailing dingy environment. Suddenly the facility pulsated with activity. Inmates became hopeful and encouraged. The detention house virtually was transformed into an academe. It became a template for cleanliness, order and discipline.
To date, the facility has attracted professional visitation from foreign countries, from US, Europe and other countries of Southeast Asia, taking note on how the system throbs into a wholesome educational facility.
It can easily said that the program of Alternative Learning System has directly contributed on this corrective phenomenon and would surely be one significant educational policy on which future penal establishments would likewise proceed to reckon in the course of their respective administration.