Goff: Prisons, local industries working together
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections
18 September 2008
Prisons and local industries working well together
Speech during a tour of CIE industries at Auckland Prison
Tena koutou katoa
I would like to welcome everyone here today.
I would like to acknowledge the Mayor of the North Shore City Council his Worship Andrew Williams, fellow Councillors and representatives from the Community Board.
I extend a special greeting to Des Ripi, Senior Kaumatua of Ngati Whatua, the tangata whenua of this area, and to acknowledge our valuable prisoner employment supporters and partners here today.
We are here today to assess the progress of the Prisoner Employment Strategy since it was launched in June 2006, and to acknowledge the partnership between Corrections and local businesses, training organisations and councils which is essential for the strategy to work.
Research indicates that 42 per cent of prisoners in New Zealand will re-offend within 12 months of release. While this is a comparable figure with other jurisdictions internationally, it is a worrying fact. It means more victims and more blighted lives.
As all of us here know, it is not an easy task to turn this around – but there are some positive things we can do. One of these is to encourage prisoners, or any offenders for that matter, to learn new skills and to build relationships with employers so that they have a greater chance of finding work and living crime-free lives.
Finding work reduces the likelihood of committing crime – that’s a fact.
I was very interested to read a good article in the Herald last month which revealed that the crime rate here on the North Shore had dropped since Hawkins Construction hired 12 young offenders. Not only did this keep the offenders off the streets of Northcote, it gave them the chance to earn some money, and self-respect.
I would like to applaud Hawkins staff for their initiative. It is a clear win-win situation – keen employees for the company in a tight labour market and the chance of real work to steer people away from crime.
Although this initiative took place outside of a prison it encapsulates what the prisoner employment strategy is all about. And it is matched every day in our prisons, through similar partnerships.
That is why I’m very pleased to say that the Prisoner Employment Strategy launched two years ago is successfully providing offenders with the tools to change their lives, so that they can become contributing members of society.
At a little over the half way mark of the strategy I am proud to say we are on track for success. Our goal was to lift the number of prisoners in work or training from 40 per cent of the prison population to 60 per cent.
We now have almost 51 per cent of the total prison population in employment or training. This is an overall increase of almost 1,000 prisoners, with the aim of including another 950 prisoners over the next two years.
This is quite an achievement when you consider that the last prison census identified that 55 per cent of prisoners were not in paid employment before going to prison and 52 per cent had no formal qualifications at all.
It was great to see an example of this success on Campbell Live last week. The programme featured furniture on sale on at the Auckland Home Show that was made by prisoners here at Auckland Prison.
The Release to Work programme, where prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentence and meet the strict criteria are allowed to work in the community, is also proving successful.
Corrections has exceeded every target they have set and in the last financial year an additional 200 prisoners were involved in the programme compared to the previous year.
Industry recognised training has also increased with the number of New Zealand Qualifications Authority credits gained by prisoners rising from 20,350 in 2006/2007 to 37,563 in the last financial year.
This represents a growth of 85 per cent and includes credits for industries including catering, horticulture, agriculture, printing, engineering and joinery.
We have also seen Corrections deliver training and employment opportunities to high security and youth prisoners who have previously been unable to participate due to their security classification.
A range of training is currently being provided to these prisoners in both classroom and workshop settings inside the wire in areas such as horticulture, elementary carpentry, catering and engineering.
This training is New Zealand Qualifications Authority recognised and allows prisoners to build credits to work towards National Certificates as their security ratings decrease and they move into CIE industries.
A good example of this in action is the recently established building construction facility at Spring Hill Corrections Facility. Minimum security prisoners are refurbishing state houses for Housing New Zealand while higher security prisoners are building the components for the houses, such as doors, inside the workshop behind the wire.
This type of training will be further expanded over the coming years as we continue to build partnerships with external prisoner employment providers.
Partnerships with external employers are vitally important. The Department has through Corrections Inmate Employment established a number of links in recent times including with Stone Strong, Canon and Housing New Zealand. These names add to a long list of companies and organisations already taking part in the programme.
Prisoners at Auckland Women’s Corrections Facility and Rimutaka Prison are assembling and cleaning photocopiers for Canon while more than 90 prisoners will be employed in a new venture with Housing New Zealand to refurbish state houses.
As of two weeks ago, we have also started a new trial of building classrooms at the building refurbishment yard. In the future we will look to strengthen these partnerships while establishing new ones.
We hope to encourage other organisations to become involved in prisoner employment to help fill regional skill shortages in New Zealand and provide prisoners with the chance to break the cycle of crime and make our communities safer places.
Before I conclude, I have three national certificates to present to two prisoners here in the pre-cast yard.
Hayden Taylor has earned a National Certificate in Health and Safety Level One.
Congratulations also to Ihaia Hoto who has earned a National Certificate in Tower Crane and Mobile operation.
I would like to congratulate you both and hope these qualifications start you on a road to meaningful long-term employment and crime-free lives. Well done.