Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Prisoners paid $2m to learn skills

Corrections links rehabilitation efforts to large drops in reoffending

At Hawkes Bay Prison, inmates helped to build a house for Habitat. A crane later moved the building, in two parts, over the jail fence. Photo / APN
At Hawkes Bay Prison, inmates helped to build a house for Habitat. A crane later moved the building, in two parts, over the jail fence. Photo / APN

Nearly $2 million of taxpayer money has gone to prisoners as incentives for attending training courses, taking part in rehabilitation programmes and mopping corridors.

Corrections Department figures, released to the Herald under the Official Information Act, have revealed millions of dollars have gone towards rehabilitation and special incentive payments for prisoners.

The department has linked rehabilitation efforts to large drops in reoffending, which the Government aims to slash by a quarter within the next five years.

The figures showed about 8000 prisoners were paid incentives totalling $1.9 million in the past financial year. Most were registered under a special employment programme.

Prisoners received these incentives for activities, nearly all within prison grounds, such as cleaning, work and classroom based training, joining community work programmes and participating in rehabilitation.

For work around the prison - mainly cleaning windows, walls, toilet blocks and common areas - about $295,000 was paid, equating to about $13 per offender per week.

About 7700 took part in the Corrections Inmate Employment programme, involving training for farming, forestry, light engineering, catering, laundry and horticulture jobs.

A total 561 prisoners who posed little risk to qualify for the Release to Work programme were able to earn market wages in jobs outside prison, with some earnings going towards board and payments for child support, victim reparation, debts and fines.

The figures also showed nearly $7 million was spent in the past financial year for rehabilitation for prisoners at medium risk of reoffending, while nearly $6 million went towards programmes to help offenders reintegrate into communities.

Corrections Services general manager Dr Brendan Anstiss said these "reintegration" programmes helped released prisoners to manage budgets and health, find employment and "build positive relationships".

More than $1.6 million was paid for supported accommodation for 199 offenders considered either high risk or high needs under a programme offering them 13 weeks' accommodation and support after release, and 13 more weeks in some cases.

Nearly $1 million went towards a special kaitiaki (guardian) service, where providers taught, monitored and evaluated "the application of tikanga values" for offenders and staff, Dr Anstiss said.

Special treatment units for violent and sexual offenders were expected to cost $6.6 million for the year - about $600,000 more than the year before because of new programmes.

There were two nine-month-stay units for child sex offenders, as well as two new three-month programmes for offenders considered a lower risk.

Dr Anstiss said more offenders were receiving drug and alcohol treatment within prison.

And this was getting results - there had been drops in reconviction rates among offenders who took part, while positive drug tests in prisons were at a record low.

The department had also seen drops in reconviction rates among offenders who participated in motivational programmes, CIE (Correction Inmate Employment) training and a Maori therapeutic programme.

But Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said taxpayer-funded rehabilitation sent a message that was "wrong".

"If prison via taxpayer funding is going to be responsible for what really is a parent or individual responsibility, then the costs of this should be recovered from the offender when on the straight and narrow."

Straight and narrower

Rehabilitation costs
$2,760,831 chaplaincy.
$16,700,190 psychologists.
$265,780* motivational programmes for 150 offenders.
$6,637,526* for 163 prisoners attending treatment units for violence and adult sex offenders and for 91 attending programmes for child sex offenders.
$6,869,300 for "medium intensity offence" focused rehabilitation programmes.
$5,894,074 for reintegration programmes.
* Projected figures. All 2011/12 costs.

Incentives for prisoners
8000 prisoners paid allowances for work parties, training, prison chores and rehabilitative programmes.
$1,901,000 paid out, averaging $13 per offender per week.
$295,000 paid for prison work, mostly cleaning.
561 offenders in Release to Work programme.

8.2 per cent reduction in reoffending within 12 months of release for offenders who took part in Correction Inmate Employment (CIE).
16.7 per cent reduction in reoffending within 12 months of release for offenders who took part in the Release to Work programme.
12.4 per cent reduction in reconviction rate for offenders who attended a drug treatment unit before release.
Record low positive drug tests in prisons.

Source: Department of Corrections

- NZ Herald

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