Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor is to meet a crew planting out new forest at Tongariro/Rangipo Prison near Turangi today
Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor is to meet a crew planting out new forest at Tongariro/Rangipo Prison near Turangi today.
Crews of 50-60 prisoners at the prison learn forestry skills every day while planting and maintaining the prison's on-site 4300-hectare forest.
Mr O'Connor said the forest is one of 140 business-like operations run across the country's 19 prisons by Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) to provide prisoners with job skills and training to use on their release.
"Operations such as this which provide prisoners with useful training and real job skills are an essential part of the Labour-led Government's determination to cut re-offending rates and make our communities safer. It is well known that people in employment are much less likely to commit crime."
At Tongariro/Rangipo Prison 75,000 cubic metres of timber is harvested every year from the prison forest, which has been in operation since the First World War.
Forest manager Grant Hardisty said that for the prisoners who plant, prune, thin-to-waste and maintain the tree crop, getting outdoors and learning new skills serves as a useful incentive for them to improve their behaviour.
More than 100 prisoners have acquired New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards for basic forestry skills, chainsaw use and maintenance, pruning, planting and felling of small trees. Of these 73 received their training at Tongariro/ Rangipo Prison.
Mr Hardisty said prisoners use these skills after gaining employment on release, not just in forestry but related vocations such as landscaping.
Mr O'Connor said the new Prisoner Employment Strategy launched a year ago aims to increase the number in meaningful employment and training from 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the prison population by 2009.
"It is pleasing to see again first-hand the wide range of work skills being learned in prison, and the progress being made getting prisoners working."