Ex-inmates apply open source to rehabilitation

Almost 70 per cent of released inmates end up returning to prison. A new project uses gaming and cooperative development techniques to train ex-inmates for personal and family life.

How does it work in practice?

Information collected by NuOAR is made available to the prison councilors. Their recommendations go to the DOC Programs Departments, in order to place the inmate into Real-World educational and remedial programs that will be of actual benefit, uniquely tailored to their individual needs. A person that scores high with "Spatial Relationships", for example, would become a good hands-on worker, like a mechanic or any other occupation that requires good eye-hand coordination. Another that performs well with the relations of numbers, would be directed towards learning spreadsheets, warehousing or bookkeeping.

All this gives back self-pride to each participants growth, a step which is necessary first to acknowledge what he or she did wrong, then to get to the "responsible" part as well. It'll be far more easier for an inmate to deliver an "Element of Criminal Thinking" via video to another, for the immediate acceptance angle, which is that of a "peer". It also reduces the fear factor as well.

Will you also teach how to use Linux and Free Software?

My other hope is indeed to introduce Linux as a course of study to inmates. Instead of mind numbing punishment by sheer boredom, they can acquire knowledge that can be shared and be of benefit to others. If you have something valid to do and learn, then prison becomes more of a retreat for readjustment, and a place of "higher learning". For some, with nightmarish abusive home and/or community backgrounds, it may very well be the first time that this has happened.

At which development stage are you now?

All we have at this point is the concept, the software to start our development on and study materials to draw on, the will, the investment of time and an absolute certainty that this is what we WILL do, in order to pay it forward.

We've been waiting a long time for Linux to make an entry into the 3D environment world, but most of the major players such as Second Life and Multi-verse offer either a server or a client for Linux, but not both as Open Source. So far the only viable combination of server AND client available for Linux is JavaNet's "Project Wonderland" which I've installed and shows much promise. As it runs on Java, it is highly portable. I am also in the first stages of learning applications like Blender from scratch, but I know I can do this. I have the time.

Of course, everybody is welcome to contribute! You can join the project or know the latest news through our home page.

Is anybody else doing something similar?

I've heard of a group in Tennessee that is bringing computers loaded with Linux and Planet CCRMA to prisons there, creating no-cost complete audio mixing systems to teach inmates how to compose and mix professionally. All Open Source, all completely free to the taxpayer. I hope I can find more about them so that we can share, do some team-building and brainstorm. I would also like to learn of any other group that is involved with using computers and Linux in our prison systems, or that would like to. I need all the help I can get. My dream is that NuOAR becomes large enough that we'll have people in every state involved in setting up and maintaining the servers as private contractors within each state. With all the prisons we have in the US, someone could make a good living doing this and stay very busy!

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