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Prison schools - Gov't study says poor-performing institutions produce most inmates

Published:Wednesday | January 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

SOME OF Jamaica's lowest-ranked high schools have been churning out the bulk of misfits, who have ended up in the country's prisons, a government study has revealed.

The study, which was presented in the House of Represen-tatives yesterday by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, shows that five institutions with the most persons in the penal systems are all poorly performing schools, according to ranking by the think tank, Educate Jamaica.

"The research unearthed evidence to suggest that the names of some schools were more likely to be featured than others. There is also overwhelming evidence to infer, with a high degree of confidence, that at least seven out of 10 inmates in our adult prisons have had some association with a non-traditional high school," the study said.

Thwaites, who described the results of the study as frightening, said naming the schools is in no way intended to ridicule them.

The five schools named in the report that were featured most frequently in the sample are Kingston High, Holy Trinity High, Vauxhall High, Norman Manley High, and Pembroke Hall High - all upgraded high schools.

"No one wants to put a pall of doom or guilt on these institutions, but they have been singled out only with the desire, as far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, to be offered special attention," Thwaites said.

He told Parliament that in addition to the 18 schools identified in the report, the study had found 56 institutions that are seriously affected. He said the institutions will receive special intervention as of next month, which will include identifying troubled students and addressing their situation. The minister said the strategy, which has at its heart the objective of ameliorating Jamaica's crime problem, will also aim to prevent school dropouts.

Of the 18 schools listed in the study, one all-age school - Kitson Town - and two primary schools - Calabar and Jones Town - are featured as schools that have produced the most inmates. The only traditional high school on the list is Jamaica College.

Educate Jamaica last year ranked schools based on the percentage of the grade 11 cohort attaining five or more subjects, including English and/or mathematics. Kingston High was ranked at 131; Holy Trinity, 124; Vauxhall High, 79; Norman Manley High, 87; and Pembroke Hall High, 84. Jamaica College was ranked at 53.

The sample from the study presented by Thwaites consisted of 894 inmates - 851 males and 43 females - from across all adult correctional institutions in Jamaica. The study had a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.