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Experiential Learning Activities for Prisoners and Offenders

A second chance to learn for prisoners

Education is at the core of successful rehabilitation in prisons and other correctional facilities. But the vast majority of offenders in prison do not have a good track record when it comes to conventional forms of education.

In fact, according to experts at Stanford University in the US, 68% of adult offenders in US prisons had not completed their high school education. The picture is similar in other countries, with 80% of those imprisoned in Ireland having left school without completing their Leavers’ Certificate.

It’s clear that conventional approaches to learning may fall on deaf ears for those who dropped out of school. For education to make a difference in prisons — equipping offenders with the skills and attitudes they need to enter employment and cope with life’s challenges — a different approach is needed.

That’s where MTa’s unique experiential learning kits can make a difference. Instead of taking part in traditional classroom learning, prisoners take part in hands-on, real-life experiences that help them to solve problems, work in teams and build confidence. MTa has a proven track-record of working with prisons to provide meaningful education that encourages prisoners to leave their cells and take part in activities that count towards productive time.

You could use a wide range of activities from the MTa Team Kit to stimulate interest in learning, develop social skills and give learners a sense of achievement by developing self-confidence and motivation among people who often lack one or both.

“In addition to the improved practical skills developed by the ‘older’ prisoners, they have reported an increase in their confidence and self-esteem, and further development in their personal and social skills,” says Robinson.

She adds that older prisoners value the unconventional approach to education offered by experiential learning and that they preferred not to mix with younger prisoners when taking part in learning programmes.

For younger prisoners, MTa’s learning helped to build anger management capability and developed strategies on how to speak to each other when working in groups. It was so impactful that they came back for more.

“They have experienced developing new peer groups and have voluntarily participated in other sessions,” explains Robinson

Other prisons have used MTa’s kits as part of a wider education programme: one prison successfully used MTa as part of the Duke of Edinburgh youth awards programme. To replicate the challenges of wilderness expeditions, the prison used MTa activities to stage its own expedition … around the prison yard.

“Prisons have to provide a certain amount of useful, productive time, and experiential learning is a great way of making that provision,” says MTa managing director Jamie Thompson. “Prisoners are among the most engaged participants we’ve ever had – it’s different and fun for them as well as being useful.

Staff development

The versatility of MTa’s kits means they are just as useful for staff, so an investment in learning activities for the prisoner population can equally be deployed in staff development.

You could use kits like MTa Team kit on staff development days. Or you could  MTa Coaching Skills to help team members give and respond to feedback, and to help leaders shift from instructional/directional leadership styles to coaching styles that focus on developing people.

And for recruitment, MTa Select help identifies candidates suitable to join the prison staff. This range of eight activities allows candidates to showcase their qualities while assessors observe a whole range of skills, attitudes, approaches and behaviours that they would probably miss in interviews.

Find out how you can invest in education that helps prisoners learn skills to cope with real-life challenges with MTa Team Kit, which has 16 activities expertly designed to develop effective team-working and leadership.

“He who opens a school door closes a prison,” Victor Hugo

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