Topics: Education, Employment, Prison

Driving progamme helps offenders in the BOP

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

The NZ Howard League for Penal Reform will now offer their driving programme for the next three years for offenders and ex-prisoners in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

The programme, which helps offenders obtain a driving license, has already helped over 40 people in the Whakatāne area since the pilot programme began in September.

The NZ Howard League for Penal Reform are all about reducing the prison population and it starts with education and a driver's license.

“Our objective is to get those offenders that are heading towards jail, get them their licenses and get them off the path that leads to jail and, more importantly, get them jobs,” says Mike Williams of NZ Howard League.

$7.5mil has been invested into the league's driving programme from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The programme has already made waves in Hawke's Bay and Auckland, now it can be expanded to the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Northland and the top of the West Coast.

“People have to have their licenses.  It's the passport to society, you need it to get jobs and on a personal level people feel so proud of themselves when they get a license.  It's an achievement and they can go on to get work,” says Jenny Michie, who is a driving instructor for the programme.

Bay of Plenty Corrections manager Mark Cleaver says, “The difference it can make in somebody's life in terms of opening the employment doors, changing their whole lifestyle [no longer] just taking that chance every time they go out driving when they haven't got their licenses.” 

As of March this year the population in our prisons has sat around 10,645.  Half of the prison population are Māori.

MP Tamati Coffey says this needs to change.

“I personally believe that people shouldn't be leaving school without having the ticket in their hand that says that they can drive, not a learners, not a restricted, but the full.” 

The programme aims to help those in the areas of Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau and Rotorua.