PRISONERS across Queensland are studying courses in mining from within jail in the hope of scoring lucrative jobs in the industry once released.
As the demand for workers in the resources industry continues unabated, correctional centres are delivering the skills in the hope that it will dampen the risk of them re-offending.
APN can reveal up to 464 felons will be eligible to enter one of the programs run across four Queensland prisons - Maryborough, Townsville, and Wolston Park in Brisbane or Woodford near the Sunshine Coast.
Maryborough, in particular, has built a state-of-the-art immersive simulator so inmates can be given detailed knowledge of life on a mine site.
Those chosen by the prisons to enter the program are usually in the final year or six months of their prison stay.
Whether they are picked depends on their record, behaviour and enthusiasm to start a new life outside the jail walls.
Prisoners will study Certificate 1 in Resources and Infrastructure Operations or Certificate 2 in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation. Each course is run through Tropical North Institute of TAFE in Townsville or Careers Australia.
From mid-2010 to mid 2012, Lotus Glen Correctional Facility near Cairns had up to 435 enrolments in the course, although the number of graduates was unavailable.
A new plan is being considered for the Capricornia Correctional Centre near Rockhampton to train indigenous prisoners with the help of the industry.
Maryborough Correctional Centre general manager Trevor Craig said those convicted of the most severe crimes were not ruled out of
the project but were given more scrutiny before being put into training.
Of the 16 who enrolled in Maryborough's first run of the nine-week course through March and April, 15 completed the course and 13 achieved Certificate 2.
He learned on Thursday that one of those now works at a mining-industry job in Mackay.
The second run of the course begins on Monday, August 8.
Mr Craig said prisoners who scored a job, once released, would be far less likely to return to crime.
"You give them employment and a place to live and they have a significant chance," he said.
"We recognised there was a gap in the mine industry. They have a better chance of getting a job in the mines than any other industry."
The success of the program, he said, also depended on the community giving ex-prisoners a chance.
Mr Craig said former inmates were no more risk to the community than anyone else.
"With their experience in jail, the risk might be less in a lot of ways," he said.
"Once they reach a point where they want to change their lives, we provide that opportunity.
"They will actually leave and not commit any more crimes."
Police Minister Jack Dempsey agreed.
"There are no benefits for the offender or the community to have them sitting in prisons and not preparing themselves for release," he said.
"The best way to prepare prisoners to become productive members of the community is to equip them with skills that are directly transferable to real jobs."
WHAT THEY LEARN
Cert 1 Resources and infrastructure operations
Use mine site communication equipment.
Complete industry paperwork
Follow occupational health plans
Identify and report incidents.
Cert 2 Resources and infrastructure work preparation.
Covers Cert 1 plus how to:
- identify hazards and risks
- complete records and reports