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Addressing Digital Divide: Iligan Jail offers computer literacy program to clients

Iligan Jail computer literacy program

Nowadays, nearly every facet of life—from landing a job to interacting with online communities—requires at least a rudimentary understanding of technology.

However, continuing computer literacy, including digital know-how, is nearly impossible for persons deprived of liberty (PDL) since prisons and jails are designed to be technologically isolated places. Cell phones and other Internet-connected gadgets are prohibited for detainees in all but the most lenient minimum-security establishments. As a result, reentering the mainstream exposes returning citizens to the digital divide and increases their risk of recidivism because they have limited opportunities to use technology while incarcerated.

This is the reason why Iligan City Jail-Male Dormitory (ICJMD) and the College of Computer Science (CCS) of Mindanao University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) enrolled selected number of PDL to a computer literacy class in Iligan City Jail-Male Dormitory under the auspices of the project titled ‘Tech Behind Bars: A Digital Reformation for Inmates.’

Iligan Jail computer literacy program

The project, which includes a weekly class for PDL within the confines of the detention facility, started on April 29, 2024 where a team of professors from the CCS taught a total of 20 PDL on keyboarding in batches.

Keyboarding, or the ability to input information smoothly using a keyboard while typing, is among the subjects of the basic computer literacy. In the coming weeks, topics will include familiarization on the computer’s operating system, performing basic tasks such as using a word processor or sending emails, and troubleshooting basic computer issues.

“Remember, computer literacy enhances problem-solving skills, opens doors for career opportunities, and improves communication,” said associate professor Alquine Roy F. Taculin, one of the six teachers working on the project. “Computer literacy is crucial in today’s digital environment for both web browsing and issue solving,” he furthered.

PDL Chris admits prolonged confinement and restricted access to technology could impede his ability to adapt to a contemporary society. He wants to continue schooling after serving his jail term of four years for rape following a plea-bargaining agreement. “I need to keep myself digitally literate because the digital world keeps on advancing. By so doing, I won’t be left behind when I enter school again,” he quips.

Iligan Jail computer literacy program

PDL Chris’ case is just among the problems the project wants to address. “The CCS team thinks that program participants will be better prepared to handle the risks of social exclusion and digital vulnerabilities when they reintegrate into a culture that depends heavily on technology,” said Professor Taculin.

However, the project was not as simple as it seemed. A lot of obstacles had to be overcome, including logistical ones, for it to succeed. “For instance, the keyboarding lesson was divided into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, due to the limited number of computers available,” shares JO1 Vanessa C Manguilimotan, unit ALS (alternative learning system) instructional manager. “These included two facility desktops that are also used for operations, and eight laptops from CCS, the bulk of which are individually owned by the instructors.”

Unfortunately, in many cases, rehabilitation programs such as skills enhancement packages often get the least attention. “But it often has the biggest payoff,” said JCI CARLO F OBRIQUE, city jail warden. In order to meet the rehabilitation needs of our clients, he continued, “we need not just mobilize service providers such as the academe, but also potential donors that could provide for the logistical needs required by the many projects we are doing for our clients.”

CCS’ initiative forms part of the ‘Behind the Bars Program’ inked between MSU-IIT and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Region X (BJMPRO-X) in November 2023 and is expected to run for two years. The Program seeks to mobilize the entire MSU-IIT community to help prepare PDL of ICJMD for their ultimate reintegration into society by giving them skills related to entrepreneurship, literacy, craftsmanship, and interpersonal relationships.

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