Prison training incentive should match minimum wage - Green MP

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The Green Party Corrections spokesperson David Clendon says wages paid to prisoners training or working within prisons are below par. This follows Corrections' latest push urging employers to give work-ready offenders a job as part of its strategy to reduce re-offending.

Former offender Paora Raharaha says he's grateful for a second chance at full-time employment.

"For my joinery I did, yip, yip so I was getting paid, I think it was like $14 a week," said Raharaha.

When asked if that was enough money, Raharaha said not really.  

4769 prisoners are involved in education and employment training programmes such as horticulture, manufacturing, construction, painting and hospitality.  But Greens Corrections spokesperson says their pay is demeaning.

"It does seem to devalue the men's work rather than adding value to it," said Clendon.

A report released by the Waitangi Tribunal stated that Corrections was failing to tackle the disproportionate rate of recividism by Māori compared to non Māori. Today Corrections began it's new strategy to increase employers for prisoner release work.  

Corrections Minister Louise Upston said, "Every prison is a working prison, and we expect while they are inside, they are working, they're getting work experience, they're getting skills and they are getting qualifications."

In statement to Te Kāea, a Corrections spokesperson said, "To provide a tangible reward for participation in employment training an "incentive allowance" is paid. The incentive allowance is between 20 - 60 cents per hour.  Prisoners, of course, do not have the same overheads and expenses as people in the community, such as rent, food, 

"We should be thinking in terms of at least youth rates or perhaps minimum wage for these men, give them a little bit more pride, give them some reward for their effort," said Clendon.

Raharaha will qualify as a personal trainer in two months and hopes to travel the country and world as a motivational speaker.