Employment expo for Auckland's women prisoners

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Auckland's Region Women's Corrections Facility (ARWCF) held its first learning and employment expo. It's part of Corrections' Women's Strategy, which aims to reduce re-offending and create employment opportunities on release.

Fitness, construction or hairdressing are just some of the career pathways on offer to the inmates.

“The goal is for me to be unemployed because we've transitioned our wāhine successfully out into the community with a lot of industry, trades, learning qualifications,” says Prison Director Cheryle Mikaere.

There are 820 women in prisons across the country, of which 62 percent are Māori.

One Māori prisoner is making positive changes.  She's pursuing her Level 3 Fitness Qualification with Skills Active Aotearoa.

“I actually want to go out and help our rangatahi, and doing that through fitness as well, as my life experience,” she says.

“We're delivering the fitness qualifications,” said Skills Active Aotearoa facilitator, Hare Pupuke, “Level two and level three- also a level four qualification, which when achieved, allows people to be able to work in gyms, develop programmes, become personal trainers, group fitness instructors.”

250 low and medium level prisoners are placed in employment or training courses inside the prison, 10 minimum security prisoners work outside the prison under security procedures to ensure public safety.

“We have an absolute robust screening process.  So we have a released-to-work broker and she identifies the right wāhine for the right employer,” says Mikaere.

"The GPS monitoring tool that we have [is] very effective because we don't have to have corrections officers out there because of the lower security rating for our wāhine.”

ARWCF plan to make the expo an annual event.