L-R: NZ Howard League President Judith Tizard, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni, Howard League Chief Executive Mike Williams, Howard League Driving Programme Operations Manager Jenny Michie, Northern Region Contract Manager Interventions Mark Lynds, ARWCF Prison Director Tayla Yandall, and Northern Region Operations Director Julie Harrison.Celebrating the successful driver’s licence partnership with the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform, the department has committed to funding the programme for a further three years.

“Since the initiative kicked off in 2014, Howard League professional instructors have assisted over 13,000 people on community-based sentences and in prison to obtain their driver’s licence,” says Northern Region Operations Director Julie Harrison.

“Given our long-standing relationship with the Howard League, this achievement certainly is tangible evidence of our Hōkai Rangi commitment to do better for the people we support.”

Thanking Corrections for the ongoing funding, Howard League Chief Executive Mike Williams said there were no down-sides to the driver’s licence initiative.

“Our programme gives people a second chance. The obvious benefits include the ability to get a job, as well as having a valid form of identity,” says Mike.

The organisation runs 18 driving programmes from Community Corrections sites in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Whangārei, Waitākere, south Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Taranaki, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Porirua, and Christchurch.

“For the cost of keeping a single person in prison for a year, we can fund a driving programme, which will help hundreds of people achieve licences,” says Howard League Driving Programme Operations Manager Jenny Michie.

In her address, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said: “This programme has government support across the political spectrum, and it also makes absolute sense to the public. Why wouldn’t we support people to get a licence if it kept them from being involved with the criminal justice system?”

Two graduates of the driving programme shared their success with the audience.

“My life used to be full of chaos, drugs and prison. I have been in recovery for three years and am now two years clean and sober. I have my full licence and my life is positive in so many ways,” says *John. (*Not his real name to protect his privacy).

“I’m sharing from the heart when I say that when I arrived in New Zealand, I had two options: either to give up or to give a better life a go. Thanks to the Howard League, I got my full licence and I am also growing in confidence. This programme saved me from reoffending and going back into jail," says Elias returned to New Zealand from Australia at the end of 2020.