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Tougher line needed on prison work

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

1 April 2006

Tougher line needed on prison work

The Corrections Department should explain what action it is taking with prisoners who don’t want to work, says National’s Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on answers by Corrections Minister Damien O’Connor to parliamentary questions which show that up to 100 remand and sentenced prisoners refuse to take part in any employment activity while in prison.

“Letting these prisoners get away with not working just cements the perception that prison is a soft option for many of them. Not working while in prison should not be an option in normal circumstances.

“I also question why nearly 700 prisoners are excluded from employment activities because of ‘disciplinary or security reasons, or because they were identified drug users’.

“That’s more than 10% of the prison population. In most instances, I would have thought work is exactly the sort of therapy these people need, rather than having them sit around in their cells doing nothing.

“This Labour Government has let work programmes slip, from a budget of $46.5 million in 2001/02 to $30.5 million this year.

“This was noted by the Ombudsmen in their December 2005 report into the treatment of prisoners: ‘We received a consistent message from all quarters that available meaningful occupation had diminished severely in recent years. This was something that concerned us greatly. Idleness does nothing for rehabilitation. As one staff member put it, prisoners who have spent all day (possibly for years) lying in bed are not going to be released and say, "I'm now going to go to work".’

“There is no doubt in my mind that all prisoners should be doing meaningful work, training or study while they are in prison, and I am confident the public would agree,” says Mr Power.

“The system should be instilling the values of work and self-improvement in these people so they are better prepared and rehabilitated when they are released.”

ENDS

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