|Milestone for Release to Work program|
NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand Department of Corrections last week said the number of prisoners in its Release to Work employment program surpassed sixty, which is the highest participation rate the department has seen.
“I cannot over emphasize the importance of this,” Corrections Inmate Employment Operations Manager Robin Benefield says. “Meaningful employment is a key component in reducing re-offending and Release to Work gives prisoners the chance to secure this.
The New Zealand DOC considers this program a key component in its prisoner employment strategy, which offers carefully selected prisoners nearing release employment during the day in the community. This program helps gives inmates both a stable work record and job experience.
“There are regional labor shortages across New Zealand and the scheme offers businesses an alternative source of staff. This has an ongoing benefit as prisoners often stay in the job once released,” Benefield continues. “This time last year there were eight prisoners on release to work, today there are 61. By Monday there will be 64 and we are looking for suitable work for another 45 prisoners.”
Benefield says the prisoners are gaining skills in fields like timber processing, horticulture and agriculture, construction, manufacturing, engineering, distribution, landscaping, plumbing, and in the automotive industry.
“These opportunities would not be possible without the foresight and support of industries and the communities who understand that providing prisoners with a start means they are less likely to end up back inside. It also benefits the community as prisoners contribute to the cost of their incarceration,” Benefield adds.
While the NZ Department of Corrections encourages prisoners to find jobs for themselves, facilities also have links with employers to help inmates find employment. Prisoners receive market-based wages commensurate with their skills and training, but make at least minimum wage. Thirty percent of their wages are paid to Corrections to cover rehabilitation costs. The money is also used to pay family support or any outstanding fines. Remaining wages are saved for prisoners to use post-release.
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