Education targets for prisoners

Last updated 08:13 27/03/2013
ANNE TOLLEY
FIONA GOODALL
ANNE TOLLEY: On a drive to lift the number of prisoners who can read and write.
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As education minister she oversaw the introduction of National Standards in schools. Now Anne Tolley wants similar targets for prisoners.

The Corrections minister is on a drive to lift the number of prisoners who can read and write. Currently 90 per cent of inmates have low literacy levels.

Plans are developing to assess the educational achievement levels of prisoners under 20 as soon as they are incarcerated.

The plans will eventually be rolled out to older prisoners. Inmates' security risk and health are already assessed when they are first locked up.

Tolley also wants to set targets for literacy and numeracy, similar to those National Standards controversially introduced in 2010 for children in Years 1-8.

Schools must report twice a year to parents on a child's progress and she believes prisons should eventually do the same for prisoners.

Yesterday, she revealed new quarterly ''league tables'' for prisons which ranks their performance on security, risk, assaults, drug tests and rehabilitation programmes. She hopes to add education to the categories.

''I believe in targets,'' she said. ''Is our target with young people, if we have them more than 12 months, that we look to get them to Level 2 NCEA before they leave us, or are well on track to achieving that?

''We need to set some targets to measure how well we are doing with these young people.''

She says the Government cannot force prisoners to learn, but prisons can make it easier and more attractive to get qualifications.
''I think we have discussed for a long time whether it could be made part of their sentence,'' she said. ''We expanded the ability of the courts to direct that they take part in the drug and alcohol and sexual rehabilitation.

''Eventually, the end game is that education forms part of that, but we are a long way off that. The judges would have to have confidence that there is a proper system.''

Performance rankings for the country's 17 prisons were made public for the first time yesterday.

They will be released quarterly. There are four grades - exceptional, exceeding, effective and needs improvement.

Whanganui Prison was the only jail classed as exceptional for the 12 months to September 2012. By December it dropped a category to ''exceeding.''

More than half fell into the effective category. At the bottom of the table are Hawke's Bay, Northland and Otago prisons, which ''need improvement.''

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Privately-run Mount Eden was in the ''exceeding'' category.

''These first-ever performance tables are a valuable tool for Corrections and also allow communities to measure how well our prisons are operating,'' Tolley says.

Corrections National Commissioner Brendan Anstiss says most prisons are operating ''effectively or better''.

''These results are very good,'' he says. ''We haven't had a single escape, walkaway or unnatural death in all the periods reviewed.''

- Stuff

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