Manawatu Standard

Literacy course open to inmates

- Rachel Moore

More than 50 per cent of prisoners have only primary school levels of literacy and numeracy, but programmes behind bars are looking to lift that.

Manawatu¯ Prison learning and interventi­ons delivery manager Tracy Murphy said literacy programmes were important because they gave prisoners an opportunit­y to learn something new and set goals for the future.

The Department of Correction­s estimates 57 per cent of prisoners have literacy and numeracy levels below NCEA Level 1, which is the first year of high school, and 66 per cent have no formal qualificat­ions. She said some men might have a long-term goal of being a businessma­n or working for themselves, and the education programmes taught them the skills needed to achieve that.

The programmes broke the cycle of illiteracy and some of them found they were good at something they didn’t expect, or had never tried.

‘‘Many of them left school at a young age, and many were the class clown or thought they were never listened to.’’

She said it gave the prisoners a taste of what they were capable of and prepared them for the workforce.

Correction­s education programmes manager Melissa Nielsen said before coming to prison many people were unemployed, living transient lifestyles, and had low levels of education.

Nielson said prison provided people with educationa­l opportunit­ies, ranging from intensive literacy and numeracy support to tertiary-level qualificat­ions.

She said 59 education tutors worked one-on-one with inmates to understand their strengths, achievemen­ts and goals.

In the 2019 and 2020 financial year, 1263 people in prison received intensive literacy and numeracy support.

This was for prisoners with the highest need, and at level one and two of the benchmarks.

Level one was primary school level or below, and people at level two were functionin­g at the level of a year 8 pupil or 12-year-old.

Nielson said the programme was delivered on-site, predominan­tly by Te Wa¯nanga o Aotearoa, and learners received up to 100 hours of tuition.

At Manawatu¯ Prison, where there are 233 inmates, more than 50 per cent of learners in the past year were referred to the intensive literacy and numeracy programme. There were opportunit­ies for prisoners to work and gain qualificat­ions in building constructi­on and allied trades, infrastruc­ture works, and a vocational pathway in manufactur­ing and technology.

In the past financial year, 1655 prisoners achieved more than 2300 qualificat­ions.

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