Two prisoners are demanding a pay rise from their 60 cents an hour
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Two New Zealand prisoners are demanding higher pay for their work behind bars, claiming that their hourly rate of 60 cents isn’t enough.
The New Zealand Herald reported that inmates Thomas Cheng and James Hemana, who are currently situated at Auckland South Corrections Facility (ASCF), took the issue to court earlier this week.
The two inmates told the High Court that their hourly rate is barely enough to afford food at the prison cafeteria and phone calls.
At the Judicial Review Hearing, held in front of Justice Mathew Downs, the two men explained that the hourly wages at the facility (operated by Serco New Zealand, under a public-private partnership with the Department of Corrections) hadn’t been updated in 18 years.
Lawyer Tim Stephens told the court that Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis had failed to increase wages, leading to inmates being unable to purchase basic necessities.
Mr Stephens also pointed out the double standards of inmates undergoing the same labour as those working outside prison.
He added that they need more financial incentives and similar protections to other unions.
Lawyer Monique Van Alphen Fyfe also said that Serco had abused their duty of care by increasing the cost of phone calls to loved ones, which is part of inmate rehabilitation and reintegration.
She claimed that phone calls were five cents more than other prisons in the country, and while that may seem small, prisoners are struggling to make ends meet.
She said: "Hemana's relationship with his partner developed through phone calls.
"His affidavit says how he tries to spend at least two and a half hours a day on the phone to his partner, but she spends between $60 (AUD$ 53 or £30)-$100 (AUD$88 or £50) a week on phone calls to the prison.
"He says how this is not just about him, he is a mentor for inmates coming into prison and he says what he witnesses is pretty awful."
Ms Van Alphen Fyfe added how a pay rise would allow inmates to not feel like a ‘burden’ to their families as they would be able to participate in the prison economy instead of asking for funds.
She said: "The money their family gives them plus what they earn is the only money they have to call home."
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