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Prisoners to refurbish state houses

Hon Phil Goff

Minister of Corrections

21 March 2008

Media statement

Prisoners to refurbish state houses

A new partnership between the Corrections Department and Housing New Zealand will see prisoners learning building trade skills while refurbishing relocated state houses, Corrections Minister Phil Goff announced today.

A new construction yard will be established at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Waikato during the next three months, Mr Goff said. Old state houses moved off sites being redeveloped will be shifted to the prison where they will be refurbished by prisoners.

“Inmates will refurbish up to 40 houses a year, stripping the insides and refitting them with new kitchens, vanities, tubs, shelving, aluminium joinery and curtains, some of which will be made in prison workshops,” Mr Goff said.

“The project has real benefits for New Zealand. At least 90 prisoners at any one time will gain valuable employment skills and NZQA credits that will help their reintegration back into society when released. Having inmates working rather than idle makes sense.

“Research indicates that prisoners who find employment on release are less likely to re-offend, leading to safer communities. The last prison census (2003) identified that 52 per cent of prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45 per cent were in paid work before going to prison.

“By training prisoners in construction trades we are increasing prisoners’ chances of obtaining meaningful employment on their release in an area that is in desperate need of skilled people,” Mr Goff said.

“The project will also go some way towards addressing the skills shortage in New Zealand, which the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation estimates will reach 13,000 by 2010.

“Housing New Zealand benefits from having the life of older houses extended. It is particularly helpful at a time when a tight labour market can mean delays in getting upgrades done on older relocated houses.

“Housing New Zealand will retain management of the refurbishment operation, including the transportation of houses and quality checks and will contract Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) as a labour supplier at market rates.

“This is a very exciting development and adds to the diversified employment and training opportunities which Corrections provides prisoners. In future, Corrections hopes to get involved in building new state houses,” Mr Goff said.

• The Prisoner Employment Strategy aims to have 60 per cent of the prison population in employment or training by 2010.

• As of February 47 per cent of the total prison population and almost 60 per cent of the sentenced population were in engaged in employment or training.

• March 2008 represented a peak of 185 prisoners on the Release to Work programme. This programme allows low security prisoners, who are nearing their release date or parole eligibility, with the opportunity to work with an approved employer in the community.

• CIE provides a range of initiatives to improve prisoners’ employment training and formal qualifications whilst they are serving their sentence. Prisoners are trained in a number of industries including farming, nurseries, organics, forestry, timber processing, furniture making, textiles, catering, engineering, concrete product manufacturing, printing and laundries.

• Training occurs through a variety of methods including more than 140 business-like industries, industry training with NZQA credits, Release to Work programme, work parties and unit-based activities within the prison.

•ends

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