Prisoners who want to study at UCOL are the subject of a fierce debate between TEU’s UCOL branch president Tina Smith and Whanganui MP Chester Borrows. Chester Borrows told the Wanganui Chronicle last week that an automotive course for prisoners was pulled from Whanganui Prison because of a low pass rate.
However, Tina Smith told the paper the low rate was because the Department of Corrections withdrew people from the course early.
“People with only two credits left to finish were pulled out of the programme,” she said. “Most who were allowed to stay successfully completed the programme.”
Tina Smith told the paper prisoners had “repeatedly stated” they enjoyed the programme, and many were asking when they could start it.
“Continuing the programme would not cost Corrections any money as UCOL had the funding, staff, and equipment.”
Chester Borrows told the Chronicle Tina Smith’s comments about prisoners being pulled from the course were “valid”, but it was difficult for prisoners to finish the courses sometimes because of parole hearings, and Corrections’ priorities when it came to rehabilitation.
“What the union keeps forgetting is that Corrections is the customer here. The customer has the choice of whose product they use.”
“The problem here is that in completing that course it doesn’t set them (the prisoners) up with anything for employment specifically.”
Tina Smith said the prison should continue the course, and Chester Borrows had a responsibility as the local MP to make sure this happened.
Getting prisoners engaged in subjects they found interesting and useful was the best way to help them succeed, she said. “Prisoners and society are better served when people have real skills for the real world that assist them to get and keep employment.”