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Prison Fellowship: Apple Picking or Nit Picking

Prison Fellowship: Apple Picking or Nit Picking

Kim Workman, National Director, Prison Fellowship of New Zealand, commenting on the prisoner apple picking incident, believes the public needs to have a debate about the value of prisoners working in the community.

“Less than 15 years ago, about 20% of the Prisoners at Rimutaka worked daily in the community. They were released from the prison with good work habits, without a drug habit, good employment prospects, in some cases a trade qualification, and a future. They did not present a risk to the community and once released, contributed to the national economy. Employers and the public supported the scheme. Today, the number of prisoners released to work is minimal.”

“On the day that the Prime Minister calls on the nation to exercise tolerance and inclusion, we are freaking out because a group of prisoners are picking apples during a severe labour shortage.”

The apple picking proposal has more positives than negatives.

• Low risk, compliant prisoners are given the opportunity to do real work, and contribute to the economy.

• They learn good work habits;

• They get healthy exercise;

• Their drug use reduces, they spend less time in a negative environment

• They meet a labour shortage;

• The employer is paying contract rates, which offsets costs to the taxpayer

Prison Fellowship would like to see more schemes like this, but with the earnings being paid into a Reparation Fund, which goes to their victims in compensation for harm caused. Ideally, the offenders should be made aware of the harm they have done to others, and realise that they are “paying back” the victim through their labour.

The next question we should ask is: how many of these offenders could safely be kept out of prison, and instead work for (say) six months in the community, paying for their crime through community service, with their earnings going back to the victim?


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