Destiny Church head Brian Tamaki has pleaded for the right to introduce his Man Up programme in New Zealand prisons during a large demonstration at Parliament - despite Corrections saying he has never formally applied to do so.
The church has been promoting their Man Up self-improvement programme for about four years, which involves reaching prisoners and helping them turn their lives around.
Man Up programme director Caine Warren - Mr Tamaki's son-in-law - this morning told TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme that the Government has stymied their attempts to reach prisoners.
"We've definitely got a proven track record of changing men's lives - particularly [those who've] had challenging backgrounds around addictions, multiple times of being incarcerated," Mr Warren said.
This afternoon, hundreds of supporters assembled on the front lawn of Parliament and were met by Justice Minister Andrew Little.
Mr Tamaki made an impassioned speech, pleading for the Government to support his "alternative indigenous justice system".
Man Up are also asking for "appropriate operational funding" to carry out their programme, and say they have numerous cases where the programme has worked.
"Your own words, minister, were 'we need reform - we need to change the system'," Mr Tamaki said.
Mr Warren was refused entry to Auckland South Corrections Facility in March 2017, after prison officials appeared to decide he and his programme were providing chaplaincy services to inmates without going through official channels.
Chaplaincy services are officially sanctioned and provided in New Zealand prisons by the Prison Chaplaincy Service Of Aotearoa New Zealand.
A spokesperson for Corrections said that, following that refusal, the prison director had met with church representatives to discuss their idea for a programme.
"At the meeting, written information about the programme was requested ... since the meeting, almost two years ago, the prison has yet to receive any information or further requests to meet," the spokesperson said.
"No formal application has been made to deliver the Man Up or Legacy programmes in prison.
"In early 2018, Corrections issued a Request for Proposal via Government procurement website GETS for delivery of programmes as part of wider procurement of family violence programme procurement - neither Man Up or Legacy submitted a proposal for the contract."
The spokesperson said Corrections meet their requirements in terms of providing religious services to prisoners through their contractor.
They also affirmed that "Corrections is committed to reducing re-offending, and giving offenders every opportunity to turn their lives around.
"Our programmes include a focus on motivation to change, cognitive-behavioural interventions and general skills such as education, employment, therapy parenting and practical life skills ... while someone is in prison, we do as much as we can to reduce the likelihood of them coming back.
Corrections said that, within the past financial year:
• 7710 rehabilitation and motivational programme places were delivered to prisoners
• 1469 prisoners received intensive literacy and numeracy support
• 3173 qualifications were achieved by prisoners while in prison
• 1068 prisoners completed intensive alcohol and drug treatment programmes
• 7439 prisoner referrals were made to reintegration service providers to help offenders find sustainable employment, accommodation and connect with whānau and community support.