The Trade Union Federation says it’s pleased that the CTU has come out publicly in support of its representation to the International Labour Organisation on New Zealand’s Inmate Employment Programme for prisoners.
The CTU has said that it will advise the ILO that the Inmate Employment Programme breaches Convention 29 on forced or compulsory labour.
The TUF remains puzzled, however, as to the validity of CTU President Ken Douglas’ involvement as a member of the steering committee for the scheme.
“The report for the CTU prepared by Mr Douglas agrees that the programme is in breach of the ILO Convention for a number of reasons. In particular, it highlights the lack of work training and rehabilitation in the scheme,” TUF Secretary, Michael Gilchrist, said today.
“But the numerous breaches of the Convention are part of the fundamental design of the programme. The programme is intended to make prisoners a source of cheap labour for private enterprise and to defray some of the cost of their imprisonment. It is a deliberate move back toward the Victorian system of workhouses and prisons.
“I am puzzled as to why Mr Douglas would publicly endorse the scheme, as he did in November last year, and why he would continue to be involved with it now that he has said it is in breach of ILO standards,” Mr Gilchrist said.
Mr Gilchrist said that the ILO Convention helped ensure that Governments sought constructive solutions to the problem of criminal offending.
“Everyone agrees that unemployment is the single biggest factor in the rate of imprisonment. That has to be tackled outside prison, supported by genuine training and rehabilitation inside.
“Schemes like the Inmate Employment Programme help perpetuate the problem by making it increasingly economic just to lock people away,” Mr Gilchrist said.
The number of persons in prison has rocketed in recent years to 5,650 or about 1 in 700 citizens, a figure projected to continue growing at a rate of 7% per year. (refer Department of Corrections Annual Census of Prisoners).