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Prisoner's rights

Release from prison

Preparing for release

Where can I get help to prepare myself for release?

You should have a case manager assigned to you when you begin your sentence, to help with rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. Talk to your PCO to find out about this. Your case manager should work with you to plan for your release. They can also put you in touch with some of the support agencies available in your area.

You can also talk to the kaiwhakamana in your prison (these are kaumātua who have access to prisons) about getting support for your release.

If you get a lawyer for your parole hearing, they can also help put you in touch with support agencies and make sure you have a case manager working with you.

Getting your Steps to Freedom payment from Work and Income when you’re released

Social Security Act 1964, s 124(1)(d); Special Needs Grant Programme

This is a lump-sum payment of $350 that every prisoner gets after being in prison for 31 days or more, whether on remand or after being sentenced. Either Work and Income will come to the prison before you’re released and give you a cheque with your name on it, or alternatively you can be given a Steps to Freedom form with your photo on it, which you can then take to a Work and Income office after you’re released so that they can then give you a cheque.

If I apply for a job, do I have to tell my employer I’ve been in prison?

Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004

In some cases. You don’t have to volunteer the information that you have any criminal convictions, but if you are asked directly you should answer the question honestly. If you provide false information, the employer might have grounds to fire you for breaching your good faith obligations (which include not misleading the employer).

Some employers require you to undergo a criminal record check before hiring you. This will usually require filling in Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Conviction History form. If you fill in this form, your convictions will be disclosed to the employer. An employer can only do a criminal record check if you agree in writing, but the job offer might depend on you agreeing to the check (if you don’t agree you may not get the job).

There are some specific categories of jobs that will require disclosure of all your convictions and any other information the police decide to release to the employer (including run-ins with the police and charges where you were not convicted). This is known as “police vetting”. These are mostly for jobs where you would be working closely or unsupervised with children. Only organisations that are on a list of “approved vetting agencies” can require you to fill in a Police Vetting form.

If you have only been held on remand (and don’t end up being convicted), you don’t have to tell the employer about this. Being on remand (and then not being found guilty) doesn’t count as being sentenced to prison, so you don’t need to mention that you have been on remand when applying for a job.

End of Chapter

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Release from prison

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

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