Corrections Life Skills Programmes

Corrections Life Skills Programmes

The Mission delivers arrange of life skills programmes to prisoner learners at both Otago Corrections Facility and Invercargill Prison.

These life skills programmes are designed to support prisoner learners as they prepare to transition out of prison back to their families and communities.

This can be a worrying time for prisoners as they approach their release date, heading back into their community – skills needed for employment, re-engaging with their families and children, making a fresh start.

Life kills programmes build on what prisoner learners already know, help develop personal coping and self-regulation skills, develop practical skills with parenting, achieving a drivers licence, and looking to be work ready.

Driver License Training

We have successful delivered a learner licence programme at Otago Corrections Facility (and the previous Dunedin Prison) for almost two decades – with a pass rate of over 95% for prison-based learners.

For many of our prison-based clients – obtaining a learner licence is an important step to becoming a full-licensed driver – which greatly assists with employment prospects and social reintegration on-release. Having a valid learner licence also helps to avoid a recall to prison if stopped while driving on probation, and is an important form of photo identification for seeking employment and accommodation.

Our learner licence programme prepares participants for the learner test through four x two-hour sessions and includes repeated practice on real test questions, group-based activities to support learning difficult concepts, and practical support with literacy, numeracy and test technique.


The Brief Drink Drive Intervention (BDDI) is aimed at improving knowledge attitudes to avoid drink driving behaviour and is being delivered at Community Corrections sites in Timaru, Dunedin, Gore and Invercargill. 

BDDI is an interactive six-hour programme that includes a variety of innovative teaching tools, including hands-on driving simulators and impairment goggles that replicate the experience of intoxication at various blood alcohol levels. 

BDDI is successful in educating participants on the effects and dangers of substance use and driving, promoting positive attitudes towards avoiding impaired driving and creating practical plans to help participants avoid future drink driving behaviour.

Skills for Dads

Our Skills for Dads parenting support programme has been delivered to men at Otago Corrections Facility and Invercargill Prison since 2015.

Skills for Dads is a practical parenting skills programme that develops positive parenting attitudes, increases parenting knowledge, develops effective engagement skills and strategies (for both behind-the-wire and post-release parenting challenges), and promotes the creation of supportive parenting environments that are fundamental to breaking cycles of violence, improving parenting outcomes for prisoners, and reducing intergenerational offending.

Skills for Dads is purpose-built for the prison environment and has been continuously refined over several years to ensure the programme is culturally responsive, tailored to the needs of dads in prison, recognises the unique parenting challenges presented by incarceration, and addresses hyper-masculine cultures that reinforce traditional gender roles and often discourage many forms of meaningful engagement with children, including displays of emotion and affection.

Skills for Dads includes Individual Parenting Needs Assessments, the creation of Individual Parenting Support Plans, and the delivery of an innovative Parenting Skills Education Programme covering all modules outlined in the service specification. Skills for Dads also includes unique programme features to increase engagement and participation, such as the opportunity to create a Waka Huia – a kete containing parenting goals and personal parenting taonga, which is sent home to tamariki at the completion of the programme, along with a personal DVD recording containing an explanation of the Waka Huia items and personal messages to tamariki about their parenting plans and aspirations on release (including messages, whakataukī, stories and waiata).

MMS uses evidence-based outcome monitoring tools (FIT) and rigorous qualitative feedback processes to ensure that Skills for Dads delivers the following outcomes:

  • Improved attitudes and personal aspirations towards parenting.

  • Development of basic parenting knowledge, skills, techniques and strategies that enable prisoners to develop long-lasting, meaningful relationships with their children.

  • Increased awareness of positive, safe and supportive environments for children for the reduction of harm and neglect.

  • Overcoming common parenting challenges and barriers to engagement while in prison and on release.

  • Opportunities for prisoners to practice and role model effective parenting skills and strategies.

Each Skills for Dads programme is delivered by two facilitators over approximately eight x two-hour sessions. Evidence from five years of Skills of Dads delivery has demonstrated significant gains in participants’, attitudes, knowledge and confidence about parenting, and has assisted participants to improve their engagement with their children from inside prison (where feasible) and  develop practical parenting strategies to assist with their parenting post-release.

Story Reading Dads

The Mission has been delivering Story Reading Dads at Otago Corrections Facility since 2007. In the Story Reading Dads programme, prisoners work on reading a children’s book and recording a personal message onto a DVD that is then sent home to their child, along with a copy of the book, and a storysack full of activities made by the prisoner that relate directly to the story and create further opportunities for learning and engagement.

The opportunity to create a DVD and personal items for their children are strong incentives for prisoner participation (and unique features of the Mission’s Story Reading Dads programme), and demand for the programme regularly exceeds available spaces.

Programme Outcomes

Story Reading Dads enables prisoners to establish and/or maintain important links with whānau. For prisoners, creating and sending the DVD and storysack is a constructive gesture and can provide a catalyst for developing positive relationships. Feedback from whānau members confirms that the DVD recordings often become valuable items for the children, who treasure the opportunity to see and hear their fathers on a regular basis.

The programme provides opportunities for informal discussions about parenting, with age-appropriate activities, developmental milestones, the use of tone and body language and parenting techniques commonly discussed in the preparation of the DVDs and storysack items. The programme also provides opportunities for positive role modelling, either from the programme facilitators, or the men themselves, plus candid discussions about parenting experiences and parenting goals.

The DVD recording process also informally supports literacy by requiring the prisoners to read several books and develop their reading, comprehension and presentation skills. The DVD, Story Reading and storysack also support the literacy development of prisoner’s children and promote positive intergenerational literacy outcomes.

Story Reading Dads Feedback

“Coming from an a an adult’s point of view, a man’s point of view, you know how you could sit there with a glue stick and pictures of the kids, animals and stuff you know it’s all good, brings ya you know you’re away from the from the everything that’s going on in the wing. And it’s another reason why I like the course coz you know it touches me in my heart to be able to do that for my daughter.” (Story Reading Dads participant).

“The part that I see – and it and it jumps out at you every day – and it’s this: prisoners coming back showing you what they’ve achieved, showing you what they’ve done, and show more interest in their children and how they want to be better fathers towards their children and things like this. And also having the change in the way they think on when they get out and changing their- they’re changing their mind from, ‘oh yea I’ll be back’ to ‘nah I might not be back,’ you know? or ‘I definitely won’t be back’ you know, what I mean?”  (Department of Corrections Employee)

“I’ve always felt there was another side to him. Even when she was little I used to take her out to the prison and he had no idea how to hold her or feed her and they helped him along. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be dad: he doesn’t know quite how. So this has given him some tools, and something that’s of him- that’s being given to her. He was in CYFs care himself so that devastation of your own child going into care - and the guys do feel powerless, and I think it was something he could give. And I mean I don't think it’s adjusted how I see him, I think I always saw that gentle side to him anyway, but I thought what courage to stand there and say, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I don't want that for you”. It was very honest stuff.” (Whanau Member).