More Prisoners in Job Training

( More prisoners are undertaking job training and literacy and numeracy education than ever before, Corrections Minister Judith Collins and Associate Minister of Corrections Dr Pita Sharples said.

In the 10 months to July 2010 the number of prisoners in employment and job training increased 9 percent (from 4415 to 4791). More than half the prison population was in some form of employment or training during the 2009/10 year.

Over this period the number of prisoners undertaking literacy and numeracy education increased 15 percent (to 1496 prisoners). More than half (52 percent) were Maori.

“Prisoners who have work skills and good literacy and maths skills are less likely to end up back in jail,” Ms Collins said.

“Too often a lack of these basic skills leads prisoners back to a life of crime. Approximately 43 percent of prisoners – and 65 percent of prisoners under 20 – reoffend within a year of their release.

“If we are serious about cutting the number of prisoners behind bars in this country, we must do what we can to equip them with these skills. More prisoners are now training for a law-abiding life than ever before.”

In September 2009 Cabinet approved the Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy which will result in at least 1,000 extra prisoners gaining skills and work experience on any given day by the end of 2012.

The number of Maori participating in Corrections Inmate Employment has increased from 42 to 46 percent of all prisoners employed. Maori prisoners also make up 56 percent of prisoners in polytechnic-run trade and technical training courses.

Maori prisoners gained 39,160 credits on the National Qualifications Framework during 2009/10. This represents 49 percent of the total credits achieved by all prisoners in Corrections employment activities and trade and technical training.

“We need a multi-pronged strategy to cut the terrible rates of imprisonment of Maori, and these results point to part of the solution,” said Dr Sharples.

“We must prevent people going to prison in the first place, by Whanau Ora and community development programmes. And we must make sure prisoners can use their time in prison, to gain knowledge and skills that will help them to take advantage of whanau and community support networks on their release.

“The Maori Party supports literacy and numeracy projects in prison. The ultimate goal must be 100 percent of prisoners having access to education, training and work experience, and clearly we are on the right track,” said Dr Sharples.

Media Release 3 October 2010 from Judith Collins, Minister of Corrections.