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Ras Al Khaimah Prison Project Expands to Include Course Offerings

Al Qasimi Foundation
September 21, 2013

Al Qasimi Foundation Quarterly Newsletter - September 2013 Capacity Development Feature:

Building on the initial success of its library project in the Ras Al Khaimah prison, the Al Qasimi Foundation has expanded its prison initiative to include English language classes and life skill workshops. The new programming is designed to provide personal and professional development opportunities for prison officers and assist in rehabilitating inmates so they are prepared to re-join the community upon their release.

“When we raise the cultural level of the inmates, we reduce the negative effects on our community,” says Captain Adnan Al Hammadi, the director of Rehabilitation and Training at Ras Al Khaimah Prison and strong supporter of the initiative.

The Foundation originally established the library to provide access to educational and recreational resources and to create a dedicated, flexible learning space for prison activities. Once it officially opened in 2012, more than 80 inmates and guards expressed interest in courses that would help them improve their literacy, English language skills, and technical abilities. To meet this demand, the life skill and English language programs were developed.

Mr. Chris Batchelder, who teaches the practical skills workshops, piloted the program earlier this year with 16 inmates. 

“The first part focused on life skills like communication, listening, public speaking, identifying strengths, planning and more,” he says. “The second part of the course focused on entrepreneurial and business skills like product development, marketing, sales, pricing, budgeting, and accounting.” 

Based on the initial success and feedback he received, Mr. Batchelder is piloting a second series of workshops focused on more complex business simulations beginning this month. “We ultimately want to provide inmates with tangible skills they can use upon their release so they have options for rebuilding their lives.”

Ms. Jenny Zimmerman, the Al Qasimi Foundation’s English instructor, has also enjoyed working with the inmates and getting to know them at a personal level while supporting their development. “One of the prisoners’ favorite activities is playing board games to increase their English spelling skills and vocabulary.”

In addition to her work with the inmates, Ms. Zimmerman has also developed courses and taught English to the prison officers. 

“The guards that have been the most serious about learning English have been very interested in continuing,” reports Ms. Zimmerman. “We will be starting up a new English program for them that includes reading as a supplementary exercise.” 

Ibrahim, an inmate and the prison’s volunteer librarian, has been engaged with the initiative since it began and feels a personal connection to the project.

“The Al Qasimi Foundation and this library benefits the prisoners in many ways,” says Ibrahim. He hopes the educational opportunities associated with the library will continue to expand by adding more books to the existing collection and developing computer courses that inmates and guards could take. 

As the English courses and life skill workshops become more established, the Foundation hopes to use participant feedback like Ibrahim’s to help the project remain relevant and broaden its reach. 

“The Ras Al Khaimah Prison Project is something that the Foundation holds dear because of the impact we have seen first-hand on the inmates,” says Ms. Soha Shami, a research associate at the Foundation. “Their professional and personal progress throughout has been remarkable.”