Information obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) by the anonymous blogger behind ‘No Right Turn’ has revealed the organisations in New Zealand that are using prison labour under the Corrections Inmate Employment scheme (CIE). Some of the organisations were already known from OIA information published in the Otago Daily Times last April. Among the organisations using prison labour are dairy giant Fonterra, which buys milk from the Otago Correctional Facility, a prison with its own dairy farm, and Cannon, which has photocopies refurbished by prisoners.
Prison labour seems to be used most in farming and forestry, with Fresh Direct, FreshPork, AFFCO Pan Pac Forest Products, Craigpine and Proseed all utilising the CIE scheme. Government departments- Housing New Zealand and the Families Commission- have used prison labour, as have local councils.
The scheme is somewhat controversial. According to Corrections rehabilitation and reintegration assistant general manager David Wales the goal of the department is to reduce reoffending;
It is important that prisoners are given the opportunity to not only address their offending while in prison, but to gain skills for in-demand industries which will aid them in securing meaningful employment once they are released.
There are concerns however that prisoners are being used as cheap workers- prison labourers are paid on average 40 cents an hour, well below the minimum wage of $12.75 an hour. A number of countries will not import goods made using prison labour (New Zealand is one of them). “I support education and training schemes in prison.” states No Right Turns blogger, “But the CIE scheme isn’t rehabilitation – it is the exploitation of a literally captive labour market for profit. It is slavery, and it is wrong.”