Driving lessons for offenders

With more than 10,000 offenders getting a community work sentence for driving offences, the Department of Corrections sees helping them to get their license as the key to significantly reduce re-offending, and that's exactly what is happening in Hawke's Bay.

An 18-year old inmate is being handed the keys to start a new life.

Prison Manager of Ara Poutama George Massingham says, “There is a need not just within Corrections but within the community as a whole, we identified that as a risk factor for our attempts to reduce re-offending the driver licenses are key to keeping them out of trouble.”

It's only his second driving lesson behind the wheel.

“I found it very interesting, I learned a few things stuff like that, a couple of things to improve on, yeah it was wasn't too bad,” says offender known as Tama (for the purposes of identity protection).

He's aiming for his restricted, and hoping to add his name to the 69 that have already passed so far this year.

G&R Driver Training instructor Geoff Wright says, “When they go through and pass their test they're just overwhelmed, they throw their arms around yah, you've done something for them, you've changed their life.”

Howard League from Penal Reform’s Anne Brown says, “The age range is probably from the youngest 17 and to the oldest about 55.”

Driving offences make up a significant portion of all community sentences, and getting their license can help reduce this reoffending.

“Each license is a stepping stone, I mean we've had a lot of work in Hawke's Bay this year over the summer and a lot wanting full licenses so they can move up a step in their jobs,” says Brown.

The programme is a joint agreement between New Zealand Transport Authority, the Howard League and Corrections, with plans to expand to South and West Auckland.