Section C: Inmate Employment Training
10. The Training Component
Training is a key component of the Inmate Employment Policy. Private sector industries generally employ staff with a generic level of skill and then provide staff with specific job training. Many inmates lack basic generic work skills such as reporting on time and working in an ordered manner. Many basic work skills can be taught or learnt on the job. The development of generic skills will be a task that is shared between case managers and employment staff.
The training component of inmate employment has a number of distinct elements:
- The first element is training in the basic skills of getting ready for work, arriving on time in a presentable manner, listening to instructions, undertaking basic tasks and working in a collaborative manner. These are basic workplace social skills that many offenders lack. Most employment initiatives also provide an induction training package, which deals with basic workplace skills such as health and safety, listening to instructions, etc.
- The second element is on the job training. Many of the inmate employment instructors are qualified tradespersons and can provide expert training for inmate employees. The training needs of each offender will be identified in the sentence planning exercise and provide a training guide to instructors.
- The third element is training for industry certificates and qualifications. A number of instructors have obtained certification as New Zealand Qualifications Authority assessors and can train and assess workers for formal training qualifications. This training will be in industry-specific areas such as cooking, chainsaw work, timber or horticulture. Other vocational training, such as the acquisition of computer skills, may also be provided. The overall aim is to have as many inmates as possible receive nationally recognised certification (or equivalent) of the skills they have achieved.
- Prisons will be offering the core programme National Certificate of Employment Skills (NCES). The NCES focuses on students with low levels of educational achievement and provides them with literacy, numeracy, social skills and problem solving skills to prepare them for employment or further training.
11. Incentives for Undertaking Employment Training
The focus of the Inmate Employment Policy is to provide inmates with effective work experience and training, which can be applied to post-release employment. As part of the skill acquisition process it is desirable that inmates volunteer for work. Much of the value of employment training is in gaining a work ethic and a positive attitude to the workplace. This is less likely to be achieved in an environment of compulsion. To demonstrate the voluntary nature of employment inmates will apply for employment positions. This is a process analogous to applying for a private sector job.
The Penal Institutions Act 1954 requires inmates to work on direction by the Superintendent of a penal institution. The Superintendent can use this power, if necessary, but the philosophy of Inmate
Employment seeks to have working inmates as volunteers. For positions involving the private sector the International Labour Organisation requires that inmates be volunteers.
The provision of employment for inmates by the Department does not constitute a formal employment relationship. Rather the employment is part of skill acquisition and should be regarded as a training initiative. Inmates do not have, therefore, the same access as free workers to wages, rights and other remedies. They do have protections under Corrections legislation and regulations. Inmates are not employees of the Department and are not, therefore, subject to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. However, the Department will observe the provisions of the Act for all inmate employment activities and, in that regard, inmates will be accorded the same status as employees.
There is a range of incentives for inmates to work. Most inmates prefer to participate in constructive employment to being locked in a cell or being in a yard. Inmates can also see the benefits to themselves of acquiring work skills.
Prisons can also provide their own minor incentives. For example, inmates can be motivated by minor perquisites in the workplace such as coffee, biscuits, scraps of material, and the use of plant and equipment for personal projects.
Social performance in the workplace should also be a relevant factor in making decisions on home leave, work release, and parole.
To provide a tangible reward for participation in employment training an "incentive allowance" is paid.
The rates for incentive payment range from $0.00 per hour to $l.00 per hour. The rates specified are maxima and have been approved by the Ministers of Finance and Corrections. The authority to approve specific incentive rates has been delegated to the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections. The Chief Executive's approval will be based on the funds that are available from earnings to cover direct industry costs, including incentive payments. As earnings increase, they could be used to increase incentive payments toward the maximum and to provide a lesser rate of payment to those who wish to work but for whom no work is available.
Each Inmate Employment position will be assessed and assigned a base-rate step and a range for promotion. The steps will apply to all categories of employment and will provide for equivalent incentive payments for an equivalent position in all employment areas, be they internal services or commercial activities.
The hourly scale, which replaces the previous weekly maximum for an employment class, will be administratively simpler. It will also enable inmates to be paid an amount for each hour worked. This provides an incentive to inmates who need to work longer than normal hours, for example at harvest time or when a product is required urgently.
Inmates undergoing study or programmes will be assigned to a step based on their prior work remuneration and the length of their study. Inmates who are ill, infirm or unemployed will be placed on steps 1 or 2, usually subject to a 30-hour weekly maximum. Inmates who refuse to work or attend programmes, or are removed from work for a defined period, will be placed on step 0 and receive $0.00 per hour.