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Prisoners to refurbish state houses

10 July 2008

Prisoners to refurbish state houses

A new building construction yard at Spring Hill Prison will see prisoners refurbishing state houses for families in need while learning new skills, Corrections Minister Phil Goff and Housing Minister Maryan Street said today.

The construction yard was officially opened today by Mr Goff.

“The building construction yard located inside Spring Hill Corrections Facility will provide employment and training for over 90 prisoners. This number is expected to grow in the near future. More than 40 prisoners will work in the refurbishment yard and 50 in the internal prison workshop,” Mr Goff said.

“The project is a joint venture between the Department of Corrections and Housing New Zealand and will see prisoners learning trade skills as they refurbish up to 40 state houses a year.

“Prisoners will be involved in stripping out the inside of houses, insulating, plastering and painting them inside and out, and re-fitting them with new kitchens, vanities, tubs and shelving made by prisoners in prison workshops.

“These skills increase the chances of prisoners finding jobs following their release from prison. This is important because prisoners who obtain employment after their release are less likely to re-offend, resulting in fewer victims and safer communities. The last prison census (2003) revealed that 52 per cent of prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45 per cent were in paid work before going to prison.

“This project is the latest step in a government drive to get more prisoners working and learning instead of being inactive in their cells. Through programmes such as Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) we now have 51 per cent of the total prison population and 66 per cent of sentenced inmates involved in some form of employment or training,” Phil Goff said.

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Maryan Street said Housing New Zealand will manage the refurbishment operation, including the transportation of houses and quality checks and have contracted CIE as a labour supplier, at market rates.

“Prisoners will refurbish homes taken from sites in Auckland earmarked for new developments. Once completed, they will be moved to other parts of the North Island mostly to small rural communities,” Maryan Street said.
“The high demand for construction tradespeople and the on-going need for state houses provides an ideal opportunity for the two agencies to work collaboratively.

“A shortage of skilled tradespeople in the industry also means the initiative will meet skilled training needs and not take jobs away from other New Zealanders.

“Housing New Zealand has been recycling older houses for a number of years, following their removal from inner-city development sites. This enables Housing New Zealand to deliver quality housing to communities that may otherwise miss out. Recycled houses are used as part of its Rural Housing Programme or moved to small towns and communities throughout the country,” Maryan Street said.

ENDS

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