Kumara Bill goes to prison

When Jessica was sent to prison she couldn’t read or write, and numeracy was a struggle.

Today she stood proudly, shook the Prime Minister’s hand and accepted a certificate that marked her greatest achievement in life – the inmate can now read, and she loves it.

Jessica was one of six inmates recognised at a special ceremony today at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo for passing either literacy and numeracy, or beekeeping courses.

She said she’d never been able to read or write well and had had “a hard time” in life because of it.

But since completing the literacy and numeracy course, a programme run by the Howard League for Penal Reform, her life has changed completely.

Good on her.   Although I imagine prison life to be much worse if you can’t read either.  

But the Department of Corrections allowed Jessica to speak and use her preferred name.

“I am really proud,” she said.

“I never thought I’d be here, no way … it’s amazing.

She said at the start of the course it was “embarrassing” as she had very little knowledge of words and numbers.

Now, she reads anything and everything she can get her hands on – and is encouraging the other inmates in her wing to take the course.

“I was really embarrassed at the start, I didn’t feel confident, but now I do and it’s amazing,” she said.

Through the course inmates are paired with tutors who are volunteers trained through the Howard League.

They learn basic literacy and numeracy and pass the course when they can read an entire children’s book – their voice recorded onto a CD that can be sent out to their families to show their progress.

The Howard League is running the course at all but one of New Zealand’s 18 prisons and has put 500 inmates through their reading and writing paces – 100 in the last year.

Anything that improves lives and reduces crime is good in my book.  Although how people can get to be an adult in this country without learning to read or write is a much bigger question.

How did Jessica get to the end of mandatory schooling without her parents knowing or caring?

How did the teachers just let it go, year upon year?

If you’re looking for a real scandal, it’s right there.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.