Prisoner working on materials for National Equestrian CentrePrisoners at Rolleston Prison have been learning new skills and contributing to the community, by upgrading the show jumping rails for the National Equestrian Centre (NEC) in Christchurch.

The project is part of an ongoing partnership between the two organisations where the Equestrian Centre delivers the poles along with tape, paint and brushes and the prison supplies the labour and expertise.

The poles are used by the Equestrian Centre for their training grounds and competitions.

“This is a great partnership project for the prisoners,” says Alex Millar, Principal Corrections Officer at Rolleston Prison. “It provides a good prison employment opportunity for a group of offenders.”

“The men involved also gain painting trade skills and a sense of accomplishment from the work they are doing for a local non-profit community organisation, which in turn supports a significant interest group in the community.”

The prison currently has around 45 poles on site and the men have been working on these over the past two months.

“Many community groups rely on voluntary labour to do their maintenance jobs and it is getting harder for them to find volunteers with the time it takes,” says Alex. ”We are happy to help where we can. It is an important part of offender rehabilitation to give back to the community.”

Don Robertson of Eventing Canterbury, and member of the National Equestrian Centre Committee says “It’s a constant battle to keep our costs at a level that is affordable, for both our 200 plus members and the around 3000 riders who use the NEC annually, and keep the Centre looking its best”.

“Furthermore, our volunteers already give a great deal of time to the sport, and having the rails painted by the prisoners is a huge help.”

“This is a marvellous venue which we are very proud of and we are really thankful for the support of the prison and men at Rolleston Prison. The contribution they make by painting the show jumping poles protects the rails from the weather, prolonging their usage life. It is greatly appreciated by the organisation and all those who use the NEC.”

Eventing Canterbury have their annual South Island three Day Event coming up in mid-April which attracts riders from all over the South Island as well as some from the North. It is planned to have the new, well-painted rails in place for the show jumping phase.

Rolleston Prison is a “Working Prison” with an aim to have all prisoners involved in work or rehabilitation programmes for 40 hours, five days a week.

All New Zealand prisons provide prisoners with a combination of rehabilitation, education and employment interventions and programmes. The development of skills, qualifications and work readiness increase a prisoner’s opportunities for employment. Research shows that employment is a key contributor to offenders maintaining a crime free life on release.