Prisoner Employment is a key initiative for reducing crime in the community and has become a top priority at Hawke's Bay Prison.
Acting Prison Manager Yvonne Fuller says the prison has reached a record high of having over 90 per cent of the sentenced muster engaged in some type of employment or training.
"We currently have 444 prisoners in employment or training out of the sentenced muster of 482 prisoners," says Yvonne.
Statistics show that 55 per cent of prisoners are not in employment before being sentenced.
Yvonne says employment has become a top priority as research indicates that prisoners who find meaningful employment on release are less likely to re-offend.
"We want to be able to help prisoners break their cycle of crime rather than just locking them up and letting them sit idle," says Yvonne.
"It is saddening to see middle aged prisoners who have never held down jobs.
"We find that once prisoners become involved in working and learning, they get a sense of ownership and pride, and become excited about developing their skills further."
Corrections Inmate Employment Site Operations Manager, Phil Harman, says Hawke's Bay Prison offers a range of employment initiatives for prisoners.
“We look at the labour market and identify trades that need skilled workers in the areas that prisoners are likely to be released. We then assess the match with prisoners and if suitable, offer training in these areas to increase prisoners' chances of obtaining employment whilst helping ease some of the regional skill shortages.
"Prisoners are offered employment and training opportunities in the areas of horticulture, forestry, elementary construction, laundries, kitchens, grounds maintenance and unit based cleaning."
Phil says they aim to give prisoners a clear career pathway they can progress through whilst serving their sentence.
"We generally start prisoners with cleaning their units and then move them onto specialised theory and practical based training in CIE industries, and ultimately onto the Release to Work programme," says Phil.
Hawke's Bay Prison has two CIE joinery workshops that employ 30 prisoners and a farm with a work party of eight prisoners that maintain it.
There are four off-site contracted forestry work parties comprising up to eight prisoners in each party and two grounds maintenance work parties of up to eight prisoners who work on the prison grounds. A paint and wash down group of 16 prisoners is due to be established in July and they will maintain the buildings of the prison. There are also over 40 prisoners working in the internal kitchen and laundry.
Phil says the pinnacle of work opportunities for prisoners is the Release to Work programme which allows minimum security prisoners, who are nearing their release or have reached their parole eligibility date, the opportunity to work in a job in the community.
"We currently have more than 30 prisoners on the programme with 16 different employers. This financial year however we have seen more than 135 prisoners placed in employment through the programme," says Phil.
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