“Labour wants to have less people in New Zealand prisons, but according to inmates’ literacy and numeracy enrolment numbers, they don’t seem to care about equipping them for the outside world,” says ACT’s Corrections spokesperson Toni Severin.

“Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) answered by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis state that of the 7,964 prisoners managed by Corrections, only 87 males and 12 females are enrolled in literacy programmes. Numeracy levels are even lower with only 53 male and 8 female prisoners enrolled.

“His responses also showed that Corrections were unaware of the literacy competency of 2111 prisoners, and the numeracy competency of 2129 prisoners.

“When I asked Kelvin Davis in Parliament whether this was acceptable, he seemed to forget that he actually answered these WPQs, saying “The Member wrote a Written Parliamentary Question and Corrections answered it.” This raises the question, does the Minister even read his responses before he signs them off? And how can he have no opinion on the numbers?

“He also used the classic Labour Minister response of blaming COVID.  

“Prisoners face many barriers to gaining employment post-release. While in prison, they have time on their hands and they should be required to use it. This will enable them to have a better life on release and makes it less likely they’ll reoffend.

“My Member’s Bill, which is in the Ballot, would stop any prisoner being eligible for parole if they had not completed a programme set in a mandated management plan under the Corrections Act.

“It would apply to every prisoner with a sentence over two months in prison to undertake such a programme and could even speed up release in some circumstances.

“The Bill allows an offender’s next parole hearing to be brought forward if the prison manager considers that the relevant rehabilitative programme has been completed earlier than the specified date.

“A rehabilitative programme is defined as a programme designed to reduce reoffending and includes any medical, psychological, social, therapeutic, cultural, educational, employment-related, rehabilitative or integrative programme.

“This is a constructive change to the law that would improve the lives of offenders and the wider public by lessening the chances of recidivism. Labour should adopt my bill to help these prisoners prepare for reintegration into society.”

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Toni Severin