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10 August 2012
New Zealand Post supports literacy programme to improve rehabilitation of prisoners
New Zealand Post will help fund a programme which aims to reduce re-offending by improving the literacy skills of
The programme targets functionally illiterate inmates who are serving a short sentence or are on remand (i.e. being held
while awaiting trial or sentencing). It places a particular focus on people whose illiteracy is a contributing factor in
their offending – for example driving without a license because they lack the skills to complete the written driving
As Mike Williams from the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform explains, sentenced prisoners each have an offender
plan which aims to identify factors that may have contributed to their offending.
“Those offender plans typically include objectives such as the prisoner undertaking education, participating in
rehabilitation programmes or developing work skills,” Mike Williams says. But since remand prisoners have not yet been
convicted or sentenced, they do not have offender plans.
“Many inmates are functionally illiterate, a situation which will make getting a job on release all the more difficult.
That helps to create the vicious cycle we see all too often, where former inmates can’t get a job and resort to
“The NZ Howard League, with the support of the Department of Corrections, has trialled an approach in several prisons
which sees retired primary teachers working with those prisoners to deliver basic literacy programmes.
“Inmates who have completed that programme feel a greater sense of worth – with some telling us that receiving the
certificate for completion was the first success they’ve ever really had.
“With New Zealand Post’s support we can now scale that up, to provide illiterate prisoners across New Zealand with a
tool that enables them to contribute to society on their release and hopefully escape the cycle of re-offending,” Mike
New Zealand Post’s head of sponsorship, Nicola Airey, says the literacy programme for inmates fits in with her company’s
long-term support for literacy.
“We’re probably best known in that regard as sponsors of the New Zealand Post Book Awards and the New Zealand Post
Children’s Book Awards, but our support for literacy is much broader than simply recognising the elite and our country’s
“New Zealand Post is a strong supporter of organisations such as Literacy Aotearoa and Duffy Books in Homes – and this
new area of sponsorship is compatible with that. We want to encourage all New Zealanders to read, and to write because
those are fundamental prerequisites for engaging in work and in society.
“The reality is that almost every prisoner will at some stage re-join society, and we believe they will have a better
chance of staying on the straight and narrow if they can read. The goal is to teach prisoners to read and write so they
don’t re-offend and can make a contribution to society.
“Let’s not forget that many of those who end up as prisoners have difficulties with literacy which may have, in some
part, contributed to some of their poorer life choices.
“A lot of those prisoners also have families and children, who they will eventually return to, and the programme which
the Howard League has developed helps to strengthen those family units through things like recording the inmate reading
stories for their children, which can then be given to the family to keep the inmate as a presence in the lives of their
“The Department of Corrections supports this approach, and New Zealand Post is pleased to be able to support something
which has so much potential to help people gain fundamental skills – the absence of which can hinder their progress on
their eventual release,” Nicola Airey says.
Around half of the prison population in New Zealand cannot read or write.