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O'Connor: Work and training for prisoners

Hon Damien O'Connor

The importance of providing work and training for prisoners

Prisoner employment plays a key role in Effective Interventions and the types of prisoner employment initiatives we are looking at today are vital to reducing re-offending.

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Kia Ora,

Welcome and thank you for joining me here to visit the prisoner employment activities at Rolleston Prison.

I'd like to welcome all the guests here today, especially the local businesses who are so supportive of our employment initiatives.

These projects would not be possible without the support of people and organisations who understand the importance of teaching prisoners essential work skills and habits that prepare them for a new life once they have completed their sentence.

The Government's Effective Interventions Package was launched in August and is designed to reduce prisoner numbers and reduce re-offending.

Prisoner employment plays a key role in Effective Interventions and the types of prisoner employment initiatives we are looking at today are vital to reducing re-offending.

These programmes increase the chance that prisoners will find reduce the number of prisoners being re-convicted and re-imprisoned.

Earlier this year Corrections launched its Prisoner Employment Strategy 2006-2009. This Strategy recognises the many benefits prisoner employment provides both to prisoners and to the community.

It's difficult to adjust to a new life on the outside - particularly if you have very little education or work experience, which is the case for about half of all prisoners.

If they had difficulties finding employment before going to prison, they will undoubtedly face significant obstacles finding employment on release. That is why prisons have an integral part to play in providing employment and training opportunities.

The Department of Corrections is working to develop partnerships with industry groups to ensure prisoner training meets the demand for local labour and skills. This means that while prisoners are getting employment and training opportunities, the local businesses also benefit.

Another Corrections initiative in this area is the Release to Work programme. This is a controlled programme where motivated prisoners are allowed out of prison during the day to go to work.

Release to Work has a vital role to play in helping prisoners prepare for their release and helps prisoners reintegrate back into the community by providing them with a stable work record and job experience.

The money they earn helps to pay their keep and could go towards reparation to their victims.

The programme is going from strength to strength. A year ago there were only eight prisoners on Release to Work throughout the country. Now there are 63 on the programme, eight of whom are in the Canterbury region.

We are aiming to have 80 participating nationwide by February next year and around 160 by the end of 2007.

Many prisoners continue in their job after they leave prison and this provides them with a regular income and improves their chances of rehabilitation.

Rolleston has two major horticulture units. The Kotare Garden is a 20-acre fully certified market garden that grows a huge range of organic vegetables. Kotare garden products are regarded as being of exceptional quality and find their way into many good restaurants and supermarkets.

I'd like to acknowledge the local business who distributes the Kotare Garden products nationwide and also the 24 prisoners who work hard in the garden.

This wonderful nursery we are standing in was established four years ago, and has expanded to cover more than three acres. The John Nash Nursery as it is called after its late founder, has shifted focus to that of a wholesale nursery that supplies chain stores, landscapers, garden centres and contract growing.

The nursery employs 18 prisoners and again their products are highly regarded and sought after in the plant supply market.

Shortly I will present certificates to some prisoners who have demonstrated their ability to work hard and gain qualifications, and I am delighted to have been invited to do so.

I'd like to acknowledge the hard work and the joint collaborative efforts of Corrections Inmate Employment, the Public Prisons Service and of course those businesses who support these initiatives.

I know we all hope that prisoners can leave here and become proactive, productive and law-abiding citizens, and all of you here are helping to make that happen.

Thank you.

ENDS


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