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Prisoner education programme aims to reduce crime

Published: 7:35AM Friday February 22, 2013 Source: ONE News

A new prison education programme starting this month aims to cut down on reoffending.

The programme, a joint venture between the Department of Corrections and the Open Polytechnic, would lead to NCEA qualifications for enrolled prisoners.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has announced a new scheme that'll see 2000 prisoners spend 10 hours a week studying courses such as career and self development, employment, work and life skills, as well as NCEA levels one and two.

Tolley said 90% of prisoners cannot read or write properly, but while in prison they are "the ultimate captive audience".

The new scheme aims to help the Government's target of reducing reoffending by 25% by 2017.

Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Mike Williams says there is a thirst for education like basic literacy training in prison.

He says in jail there is a lot of enforced idleness, and by taking these idle moments and giving prisoners something constuctive to do, the prison environment will improve.

Offenders will receive two hours of coaching a week on top of eight hours of distance learning, as part of the "Get ahead with NCEA" programme,.

They will be able to study for an Open Polytechnic Certificate in Career and Self Development, a National Certificate in Employment Skills, a Certificate in Work and Life Skills, and NCEA Levels 1 and 2.

"Education and qualifications are powerful tools in helping steer offenders away from criminal activity, which leads to fewer victims of crime and safe communities," said Tolley.

The new programme gets underway this month, with a thousand prisoners and community offender taking part each year in 2013 and 2014.

The scheme will be closely monitored to ensure it is effective.

- With Newstalk ZB