Working, studying and other activities on the inside

Education and study

Can I get an education while in prison?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 50-52, 78

If you want to improve your education the prison must give you as much help as is reasonable and practical in your situation. Help with education is part of the rehabilitative services that prisons are required to provide – but only as far as they’re able to with the resources available to them. This means that sometimes there’s a waiting list or that some programmes won’t be available.

All basic literacy (reading and writing), numeracy (maths), NCEA courses, and tertiary education are available for prisoners. The first step would be to talk to your PCO within your unit (Principal Corrections Officer – the senior prison officer in your unit) and also with your case manager about how the courses you want to do will fit in with your rehabilitation and reintegration programme.

If you want to study towards a higher educational qualification (like a university degree or polytechnic qualification), these are usually arranged by the prisoner and done through correspondence (that is, through the mail). You’ll usually need to arrange the funding yourself through student loan, grants, sponsorships or your own personal money.

How do I find out about what education is available to me in prison?

Start by talking to the PCO in your unit and also with your case manager about your rehabilitation and reintegration plans.

What sort of education is available?

There are a number of options available, including:

  • basic reading and writing (foundation skills)
  • trade and technical training
  • on the job training
  • self-directed study – which includes getting NCEA qualifications, polytechnic courses, and university courses.

Can I get a university degree or other tertiary qualification?

Yes, but you’ll need to get permission from the prison, as higher education isn’t a right. Start by talking to your PCO or case officer.

Generally though, the prison should be supportive of any further education you do as part of your rehabilitation and reintegration programme. The prison would need a good reason to refuse you access to higher education.

Do I have to pay for education in prison?

Corrections Act 2004, s 78

You don’t have to pay for any education that would normally be free outside prison through primary schools and secondary schools (high schools).

You also don’t have to pay for any basic literacy classes (reading and writing) that the prison provides if you struggle with reading and writing.

The prison doesn’t have to pay for any other education (like university or polytechnic courses or other tertiary education), but it may decide to do this if it sees this as helping with your rehabilitation.

How will my higher education fees be paid?

You’ll have to pay any fees and other expenses if you do any university or polytechnic courses or courses at a private educational institution, unless the prison decides to pay these for you. This will depend on your rehabilitation programme.

Can I get a student loan?

Student Allowance Regulations 1998, reg 28; Prison Operations Manual, F.08.Res.01

You can apply for a student loan to cover the cost of your course fees and other course-related costs (like textbooks). However, you can’t get a loan for “living costs” or get a student allowance.

Can the prison make me attend classes?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 51-52

Yes, you may have to attend classes if the prison staff believe that your standard of education is too low or that the class would help your rehabilitation.

Do I have access to a library?

Corrections Act 2004, s 78; Prison Operations Manual, F.04, 08

Yes, you’ll have access to the prison library, which should help provide the educational books and other resources you need: see the next section, “The prison library”.

You can also ask to have access to equipment and facilities for studying, including a computer for example if one is necessary for the course you’re taking. However, all access to computers in prison, even for educational purposes, must be pre-approved by the prison and will be strictly controlled: to ask for permission for this, you should start by talking to your PCO or case manager.

Can I get access to pens, paper and other writing materials?

Corrections Regulations 2005, reg 83; Authorised Property Rules, 2.3

Yes, you have the right to reasonable amounts of stationary items such as writing paper, pens, pencils, rulers and rubbers.

Can family and friends bring me books?

Prison Operations Manual, P.03.07; Authorised Property Rules, 1.3

Yes, they can bring in books and magazines. These will be screened and won’t be allowed in if the prison staff think they’re not appropriate. A P.01.Form.01 – Request for Property form will need to be filled in before the prion will accept any property from visitors.

Can I use my own laptop computer to study?

Prison Operation Manual, F.08

No. If you need a computer for your course, the prison may provide you with one, if it gives you permission for this. The computer will only be available to you until you finish your course.

Next Section | The prison library

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Working, studying and other activities on the inside

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