Employment activities

Making our communities safer – prisoner employment and training

The 18 prisons around New Zealand house over 10,000 prisoners. The majority of these prisoners have limited education or work experience. A high percentage of prisoners have no formal qualifications and less than half of them were in paid work before going to prison.

Our main goal is to reduce re-offending and research shows that prisoners who find sustainable work after being released are less likely to re-offend.

We work to improve the employment potential of the people who pass through our prisons eachyear.

This includes increased alcohol and drug treatment and greater access to education, training, employment assistance and rehabilitation programmes. We are also building local, regional, and national relationships with industries and employers so we can select candidates to match individual business needs.

We also assess market trends to identify industries that require qualified workers within the areas that prisoners are likely to be released into. We have employment training programmes in all prisons to provide training and employment opportunities within these types of industries so prisoners can increase their skills.

We aim to both increase prisoners' chances of obtaining meaningful employment upon release, and help to ease some regional skills shortages.

What work prisoners do in prison

Over 59 percent of prisoners participate in employment or industry training.

Prisoners who undertake employment and training do so on a voluntary basis and are enthusiastic about being provided with the opportunity and responsibility of learning new skills.

Prisoners are trained in industries such as construction, farming, nurseries, forestry, timber processing, furniture making, textiles, catering, engineering, concrete product manufacturing, printing and laundries.

Training is done through different ways including business-like industries, industry training, work parties and unit-based activities within the prison.

In most employment activities, prisoners are trained by qualified instructors to New Zealand Qualification Framework standards. Eligible prisoners are also able to participate in the release to work programme.

Business-like industries

There are over 140 business-like industries operating in prisons across the country. They aim to provide work environments that match, as closely as possible, industry environments.

Work parties

Low security supervised groups of prisoners work with local and regional councils, communities or businesses on work contracts outside the prison. They work in areas such as forestry, horticulture, farming, construction and grounds maintenance.

Industry training

Prisoners have the opportunity to undertake industry training which gives them the opportunity to gain formal qualifications through the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. This allows them to gain unit standards and industry certified national certificates.

This training is often made up of theoretical and practical components and is done within the prison.

Unit-based activities

Prisoners are employed in the cleaning and care of their unit, community work parties and other constructive activities.

Release to work

Prisoners approaching the end of their prison sentence may be eligible to engage in employment in the community, with an approved employer and with a view to maintaining their employment upon release. These prisoners are low security prisoners who meet strict eligibility criteria and have demonstrated that they are highly motivated to work.

Employment opportunities on release

As a prisoner nears release they are supported with a number of employment services to help them find a job on their release – for example the Job Club helps prisoners work on their CV and interviewing skills.

Our employment support service (ESS) is targeted at prisoners on release or offenders on a community sentence who require a high level of support to get a job and keep it. It aims to support job seekers to find employment as quickly as possible and then to maintain their job long term.

External providers support job seekers to find and maintain employment through active case management, job placement, and in-work support that fits with the job seeker’s offender plan and any conditions of release and/or probation requirements.

Support is tailored to the individual, and is ongoing for up to six months for both employee and employer once a job is secured.

Corrections also has offender recruitment consultants in every region who work directly with offenders and employers around the country. Employer Starter Packs (ESP) are available for employers to support them in employing offenders.

Find out how you can work with our jobseekers.