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Aim to get more prisoners into work

Aim to get more prisoners into work

Significantly increasing the number of prisoners in work and training is the aim of the new Prisoner Employment Strategy, Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

The three-year strategy, the Prisoner Employment Strategy 2006-2009, which was launched today, provides a framework to increase the range, quality, and relevance of employment-related opportunities for prisoners.

Getting more offenders working, both while still in prison and once they have been released is central to achieving my aim and that of the Labour-led government to reduce re-offending rates over time, Damien O'Connor said. The strategy also addresses concerns raised by the Ombudsman late last year.

"Employment and training plays an integral part in the rehabilitation and re-integration of prisoners by providing them with essential work skills and habits. Finding meaningful jobs is shown to lower the number of offenders who are reconvicted."

The key points of the strategy are to:

Provide employment training to all suitable prisoners.
Assess regional skills demand to align prisoner employment activities with the needs of local employers.
Develop a partnership with industry and industry-training organisations to ensure prisoner qualifications are relevant to the labour market.
Ensure prison-run businesses fulfil social as well as commercial purposes.
Work with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to implement initiatives that support post-release reintegration.
Provide opportunities for prisoners to meet with MSD workers 12 months prior to release to ensure a seamless transition to employment or training.
Expand the Release to Work programme.

The types of industries that are expected to have greater involvement include: plant nurseries, forestry, farming, light engineering, textiles and timber processing.

An action plan outlining targets and the range of new training and employment initiatives is currently being developed.

Mr O'Connor said the importance of prisoner employment is obvious when you consider that many prisoners have been long-term unemployed. "In 2003, less than half of sentenced prisoners had been in paid employment before entering prison."


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