Rehabilitative programmes in Invercargill Prison, New Zealand, were praised last week by the country’s Department of Corrections, reports a recent article.

According to the prison’s director, Daryl Tamati, 160 prisoners were spending 40 hours a week on educational and industry training activities, as part of the “Working Prisons” model. The project aimed to prepare prisoners for their release and set them up for employment and reintegration in future.

As well as working on literacy and numeracy, prisoners worked with local training providers to gain qualifications and experience in areas such as construction, horticulture, carpentry, agriculture and catering. By constructing buildings for a local technological institute or manufacturing goods for local charitable projects, inmates have been able to give back to the community and contribute to the local economy.

In regions offering such courses, reconviction rates have dropped by between 3.8 and 4.7%. As 4 in 5 inmates in Invercargill have very low literacy, often having missed out on education for varying reasons, the opportunity to improve their skills has a significant impact on their prospects after release. “These interventions all support change for the men and this is crucial for them, their families and everyone else in the community,” Tamati said.

Rehabilitative programmes can make a huge difference to a prisoner’s chances of successfully rebuilding their lives after they leave prison. Not only can new skills and knowledge open new career doors, but the rewarding feeling of self-improvement can help prisoners find renewed enthusiasm for life beyond crime.

Prisoners Abroad recognises that rehabilitation is vital for the maintenance of prisoners’ psychological health. By staying mentally active and having a sense of purpose, it is easier for prisoners cope with life in prison. Prisoners Abroad helps care for prisoners’ mental health by sending them books, newspapers and magazines to read. The freepost envelopes and phone cards we provide help them stay in touch with home, and foreign dictionaries help break down the language barrier for those who do not speak the local language. This fights isolation and acts as a lifeline for those who would otherwise lose hope.

You can find out more about how we help overseas prisoners here.

“I cannot even imagine what life would be like without you guys. We are here with so many difficulties—mentally and physically—with no communication with the outside world, and every time they call my name for a package I feel like freedom itself… I don’t even know any word in the dictionary to describe my love and appreciation for you guys.”

– A prisoner in Thailand