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Prisoner Reintegration Initiative

Hon Paul Swain
Minister of Corrections
Hon Rick Barker
Associate Minister of Social Development and Employment

1 August 2005
Media Release

Prisoner Reintegration Initiative

Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Rick Barker and Corrections Minister Paul Swain today announced details of the first stage of the strategy to get more released prisoners into work.

Mr Barker said every prison will be assigned a dedicated Work and Income case manager and work broker to help prisoners find work.

Prior to an inmate's release, the case managers will complete skills assessments, identify employment opportunities and match inmates to job opportunities in the region they are returning to.

The second stage of the strategy, to be implemented later this year, will see prisoners have greater opportunities for work experience and vocational training in areas of skill shortages to boost their chances of finding work when they are released.

Mr Barker said the case managers assigned to the prisons will work closely with Department of Corrections' staff in prisons and in the Community Probation Service. They will also work closely with Corrections’ newly appointed reintegration workers, whose job it will be to help prisoners rejoin the community more successfully.

Corrections has been piloting reintegration workers in Wellington and Waikato and will be implementing these new roles in all regions over the next year.

"Inmates who leave prison and find work have a much better chance of staying out of trouble," Mr Barker said.

"While the unemployment rate is under 4 per cent and skills and labour shortages are evident, former prisoners are still struggling to find work. This plan is designed to make the transition from prison to work more successful," Mr Barker said.

"Employment must be seen as a part of the integration process back in to society" he said.

Work is also continuing to make sure suitable offenders on Home Detention find work, while still meeting the requirements of their sentence. From later this year, offenders on Home Detention will not automatically be exempt from work-testing. Exemptions will only be granted if there are good reasons to do so, such as attending court-ordered rehabilitation programmes.

Mr Swain said research shows more than a quarter of all prisoners will return to prison within a year of their release. The figure rises to 35 per cent after two years.

"The strategy is vital at a time when inmate numbers are rising due to the government's tougher stance on crime. The government is spending more than $800 million on adding 2100 beds to the prison capacity, including four new prisons.

"However, locking more people up isn’t the only answer. We have to do more to stop people returning to prison and getting them into work is one of the ways to achieve that goal. This is a major step forward in the government's push to reduce reoffending rates," Mr Swain said.

"Giving inmates vocational training while in prison to prepare them for work is also vital because more than half of all prisoners have no formal qualifications."

ENDS

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