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New style re-hab prison gets go-ahead in Northland

Northland prison will go ahead at Ngawha, but extra funding will be made available nationwide for re-habilitation, and an Iwi Liaison person in the North will be set up to continue consultation, Matt Robson Minister of Corrections announced today.

"I am proud to announce that in the up-coming budget I have been given an extra $4.2 million dollars (on top of existing funds of $1.6 million) to increase the level of educational opportunities available to inmates, particularly to focus on employment skills.

"Not only that, I am able to add nearly a million dollars on top of the $880,000 already allocated, for Tikanga Maori programs.

"That will have a big impact on the kind of facility we can develop in the North. The facility will include a Maori focus unit, following the success of these sorts of facilities elsewhere. It will also have, amongst other things, a specialist youth unit. Security will be a priority, with a modern perimeter fence.

"I have also set aside extra funding to resource an Iwi Liaison person to continue consultation with local people. It is paramount that people from the area feel a sense of ownership and involvement when key decisions are made.

"We must work together to establish exactly what kind of facility will be built at Ngawha, and what kind of programs will be run both inside the prison and on release, perhaps in other locations across the North.

"It is important that Northland inmates are brought home to their own families. This in itself will increase our chances of cutting re-offending. Being close to family and whanau has been internationally proven to reduce re-offending.

"Most importantly we need to make sure that there are jobs in the North for people to go to after release. The concept behind this prison goes hand in hand with regional development plans for the North. I will be working closely with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Jim Anderton on job creation in the North.

"I am well aware that for some people who live in the Ngawha area, they feel this announcement is nothing to celebrate.

"Opening a new prison may not seem like good news. Certainly it is my goal to close prisons not open them. But I'm realistic.

"First we have to turn around the appalling rates of re-offending in this country. We can do that by making our prisons work," says Matt Robson.

"I want this to mark a new era in Corrections. I don't want any more Mt. Edens. The old style prisons have not delivered safe communities. More than 60% of ex-inmates re-offend. It's time to chuck the old ideas out.

"The new era means a focus on re-habilitation, on reducing re-offending, and on providing regional facilities where local people provide solutions to local problems," says Matt Robson.

ends

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