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Lessons from Bali prison rehabilitation model

Media release

Curtin University researchers, who recently spent time with members of the Bali Nine at the Kerobokan prison, say the prisoner-initiated and run rehabilitation program set up by Myuran Sukumaran and Si Yi Chen could bring benefits to Western Australian prisons.

The rehabilitation program, which was established five years ago, involves art, jewellery making and t-shirt screen printing. The products are then sold through a local art shop, with the profits used to buy art materials and provide the artists with a small income.

Senior Research Fellows, Dr Brian Steels and Dr Dot Goulding from Curtin’s Ethics, Equity and Social Justice department, visited the prison to learn about the program and look at ways in which the WA prison system might incorporate the model.

Dr Steels said the prisoner-initiated and run business-model was very successful and quite rare.

“A key aspect of the program Sukumaran and Chen established is the personal development of the prisoners through the mentoring they received and gave. This had a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing,” Dr Steels said.

“Many of the program participants moved from narcissistic behaviour towards altruistic behaviour by helping others develop practical skills and a sense of worth.”
Both female and male inmates participate in the program, which is also rare within the prison system.

Dr Goulding said they hope to work with the WA Government and the Department of Corrective Services to identify ways our prison system could learn from this model

“In WA prisons, the skills development programs are initiated and funded by the prisons, however, in Sukumaran and Chen’s model, prisoners purchase their own materials and they are paid a wage from the sale of the products,” Dr Goulding said.

“Through this model, long-term positive effects were achieved.”

Over the coming months, Dr Steels and Dr Goulding plan to meet with key decision makers and policy developers to look at ways this business-model might be introduced within our prison system.

Dr Steels and Dr Goulding are also Directors of the Asia Pacific Forum for Restorative Justice.