Helen Kelly, head of Council of Trade Unions (CTU), told Salient that the work programme at Arohata would not realistically lead to employment for inmates, and the women are not paid fairly.
Kelly said the CTU supports working prisons, but only when the conditions are right. For the CTU this means that the work is not undermining the market, that those doing the work are paid properly, and that the work includes “an element of real training that will lead to real work”.
“They should at least earn minimum wage and that can be put into a bank account and be used to pay for study or for training. Everyone that’s contributing through their labour should be paid the minimum wage,” Kelly said.
This is nuts. First of all there would be no work at all for anyone in prison, if they are being paid the minimum wage, You’re not going to choose the prison company when it is the same cost as another company.
Secondly as we’re paying $100,000 a year or so to house the prisoner and keep the community safe from them, why should they get to not contribute to the cost of their imprisonment. Under CTU fantasy land a prisoner would save more money than a struggling family.
“Victoria University shouldn’t be exploiting the labour of these women in that way. There’s not going to be work in laundry for when these women [are released], and it will be undermining other laundry service workers.”
By exploiting, she means giving them an opportunity to work and gain skills.
John Pratt, Head of the Institute of Criminology at Victoria, supports the University’s use of the prison laundry service.
Pratt said it was “patronising” to suggest that the work would not teach inmates marketable skills.
He said the work would impart productive habits and increase prisoners’ employment opportunities in dry cleaning organisations or laundries upon their release.
“They are likely to have such poor work records and such limited educational backgrounds that their opportunities for employment are very, very small at best in most cases. If this does something to improve those chances then it’s a valuable skill.”