Mike Williams, the former president of the Labour Party (in the heyday of Helen Clark) and more recently Hawke's Bay Today Weekend columnist, is a very interesting man to talk to.
He is still, I reckon, one of the most astute political commentators in the country. What you may not know is one of the things he is most passionate about is the work done by the Howard League for Penal Reform, of which he is CEO. I have not personally spoken to Mike this week, but I am sure he is thrilled with the agreement his organisation signed with the NZ Transport Agency that will see the Government's Community Road Safety Fund contributing $100,000 to the league's driving and literacy programme for young "disadvantaged offenders" in Hawke's Bay.
This initiative should see more than 100 young offenders in the Bay get their driver's licence.
There will be some people who will immediately question why public money is being given to young criminals to help them when there are plenty of law-abiding youngsters who could use the financial help themselves. Instead, they should see this as a safeguard for our communities in the long run, because these offenders are being given a chance to reform.
In our story announcing the agreement this week, Mike Williams said the problem was that many of these youngsters often ended up in the justice system because they did not have the means to get their licence and often drove illegally. Added to this, many also did not have the literacy skills to study the road code and pass the theory test.
I reckon it is money well spent if the end result is less taxpayer money being used to keep these offenders locked up because they have become hardened criminals.