Employment activities

Making our communities safer – prisoner employment and training

The 18 prisons around New Zealand house over 8,500 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 each year.

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

Case Managers in prison and Probation Officers in the community meet with offenders regularly during their sentence to address the cause of offending and support them to progress. Offenders are provided with rehabilitation programmes, education and job training PDF, 859.6 KB that will turn their lives around and break the cycle of re-offending.

Our prisons offer pre-employment training, practical experience and qualifications, for example in horticulture, carpentry and construction, agriculture, painting and catering. Working prison’s engage prisoners in activities, including treatment, learning, industry and other programmes in preparation for release and reintegration.

When someone is released from prison they must comply with any conditions imposed on them by the Court or the New Zealand Parole Board. Our top priority is public safety and their compliance with these conditions is monitored by probation officers. Offenders motivated to find work upon release or while serving sentence in the community can opt in to a recruitment service provided by the Department's Employment and Training Consultants.

How Employment and Training Consultants help jobseekers

The Employment Services team (EST) provide a range of employment programmes and related initiatives to enhance employment and training opportunities for people with criminal convictions. Employment raises a person’s self-esteem, confidence and resilience that helps them lead positive lives.

Employment Services fit in with the heart of Hōkai Rangi, the Department of Corrections overarching strategy and the concept of Oranga, or wellbeing of our people, their family, and whānau.

Our approach to employment:

  • We provide a tailored recruitment service, designed to assist with education, training and job searching for our jobseekers to gain and maintain sustainable employment
  • We build awareness and strengthen relationships with Employers and Education/Training providers, seeking sustainable opportunities for our jobseekers
  • We collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to deliver a holistic wraparound support service.

Read more information on getting a job on release or contact us via email at employerpartners@corrections.govt.nz.