Tongariro Prison updates us on prison group


Seven prison facilities throughout the country use Book Discussion Scheme resources to run book groups for male and female prisoners.

Christchurch Women’s Prison was the first to establish a volunteer-led group in the middle of 2015. It continues to meet fortnightly, with an attendance of up to 6 female prisoners and two volunteers.

Earlier this year, Tongariro Prison, in the central North Island, started a men’s group in one of its units. BDS received this update from the prison’s Volunteer Co-ordinator & Education Tutor (who coincidentally is a BDS member) as to how the group is faring.

“These book groups are beginning to emerge in our nation's prisons and we are pleased that Tongariro is on the forefront of this initiative.

Group members all read a copy of the same book, then meet a month later to discuss issues the book explored, while having their discussion guided by notes that accompany the book. Fiction, non-fiction, New Zealand and foreign writers are all featured in the list of literature that will keep the group busy until the end of the year.

This …aims to broaden minds through reading and discussion, encourage critical thinking, create awareness of social issues and cultural diversity as well as encourage a sense of community and social cohesion. All fantastic goals for our paihere.

Also, in a prison setting, alleviating boredom and keeping the mind busy are satisfying bonuses for our men. Members of the book group are already reading confidently and this group aims to stimulate the minds of those who are not needing literacy assistance.

Enhancing discussion (especially in areas where there may be a wide variety of opinions) as a social skill is valuable preparation for our paihere before release into a community of mixed minds.”


Taupo Times community newspaper also published an article about the group in their 13 October edition.



Editor’s note: We like the fact that ‘paihere’ can have a literary association; paihere pukapuka means book binding. 


The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations