More working prisons

January 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

More will be turned into working where all prisoners will be placed in a 40-hour week programme of work and rehabilitation, Prime Minister John Key said in his statement to Parliament today, the first sitting day of the year.

It is part of the Government’s goal of reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

“The Government will increase employment opportunities for prisoners by establishing more of our prisons as working prisons, where all prisoners will be engaged in a structured 40-hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities,” he said. …

Of the country’s 19 prisons, only one at present is deemed a working prison, Rolleston.

Seems like an excellent initiative to me. Hopefully they won’t stop at three prisons. It would be impractical to do at the maximum security prisons, but I think having a regular work routine will help prisoners reintegrate back into society once their term is up.

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47 Responses to “More working prisons”

  1. Brian Harmer (686 comments) says:

    I seem to recall some technical difficulties with these. Wanganui prison had a shoe-making venture, but if I remember well, it ran foul of private enterprise who cried unfair that their tax dollars were subsidising their competition.

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  2. toms (301 comments) says:

    With the three strikes law, compulsory prison labour and kowtowing to foreign corporations I think we can begin to discern National’s solution to both Maori unemployment and competing with China. Serco can get brown people to make milk powder for nothing, it all makes perfect sense from a gated community in Hawaii.

    Oh yes and according to friend in the trade, the firewood industry is now dominated by prisons, because honest hard working New Zealanders can’t compete with slave labour chopping up the wood.

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  3. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    You can bet your head that Labour and the Luddites will oppose this excellent idea.

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  4. Mr Nobody NZ (397 comments) says:

    Can anybody advise:
    A) Are these work schemes voluntary or compulsory?

    and

    B) What happens if a Prisoner refuses to participate in these work schemes?

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  5. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    These schemes should be voluntary.

    Prisoners who opt in get a RFID writs tag and earn virtual income for work done. They can spend this virtual income on a renting a better cell, hiring a big TV, dining in a on-site restaurant, gifting to charity etc.

    They would pay a tax on their virtual income, and this ‘tax’ would be used to upgrade basic cells for the non workers from stone walls and minimal stuff to something more comfortable.

    The result would be a some real-life lessons: Effort is rewarded, while laziness leads to a tougher life.

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  6. Portia (204 comments) says:

    Like last year’s policy not to pay benefits to people with outstanding arrest warrants, Joe Public may have assumed that it’s already happening.

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  7. flipper (3,847 comments) says:

    The problem with working prisons (apart from Pare) has NEVER, EVER been the inmates.

    They are bored shitless and, apart from the habiutual druggies, would gladly work seven (7) days a week.

    The problem has always been the prison officer union (s).

    Then there is the new uniform. They are just borrowed UK crap, and deservedly regarded as such (another Collins invention :). Sort out the shift and meal problems, and working prisons will “work”. Leave them untouched and they will fail to achieve their potential.

    But the main issue is what will they do for re-habilitation and post-prison employment ? Provide the qualifying inmates with a meaningful qualification and post release employment opportunities (devoid of CP rubbish, except for a few) and working prisons will really work.

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  8. lastmanstanding (1,241 comments) says:

    as Auckland Council will no longer mow the berms why not get the prisoners to do this. Chained together wearing orange fluro for saftey and ID it would solve 2 problems.

    1. The berms would be mowed.
    2, The Crims would learn that to avoid having to do so they should give up on crime.

    Nz has become a soft cock country governed by soft cocks.

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  9. dime (9,677 comments) says:

    my buddy worked 40 hours a week at Paremoremo. Not when he was in maxi, but for the 18 months or so before he got out. Plant nursery mainly.

    I think he worked full time in a wood shop before that.

    He told me if he didnt work he would be “shipped down the line”.

    It was actually good for him. when he got out he had a work ethic for the first time in his miserable life. he had a job within 6 weeks. think he was on ACC 6 weeks after starting but yeah.. it helped a bit.

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  10. Philonz (91 comments) says:

    The biggest difficulty with this has always been the possibility of taking someone’s job from them by replacing it with free labour. Either you give the prisoners meaningless jobs that aren’t being done by somebody or you take the job of someone on the outside. Will be interesting to see how/iff they get around this.

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  11. thedavincimode (6,591 comments) says:

    Chain gang.

    Plenty of thistles to be grubbed in the hinterland that won’t otherwise get attended to. Not a huge competition there for those who prefer not to spray or otherwise are too stretched to pay anyone else to do it. The private sector compettion issue is real but that isn’t to say that they can’t be directed into work that simply would not otherwise get done.

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  12. Jaffa (84 comments) says:

    The stuff that we import from China, made with cheap labour, clothes, furniture etc, can be made with our own cheap labour, prisoners!
    No jobs lost, less imports, foreign exchange saved, work ethics installed in convicts, where is the downside??

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  13. thedavincimode (6,591 comments) says:

    Good point Jaffa. The Red Shed will save a fortune on freighting in crap that breaks before you even get out of the car park. No doubt the savings can then be passed onto its customers.

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  14. Colville (2,198 comments) says:

    I would think that the prisinores would love it and surely it MUST lower the reoffending rate. It shouldnt be hard to make it cost neutral or make some profit toward upkeep of the crims. Incentivise the crims with pay/better food/conditions because that is what work is about in the real world – you work for stuff you enjoy.
    Hard to see any downside to this at all but yip I bet the Greens and Liarbore will whine like bitches.

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  15. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    There are thousands of kilometres of highways throughout NZ which confused arseholes treat as rubbish dumps that badly need the packaging from the fast food industries removed.

    A mini bus to get the workers on site, a few fluoro vests & a generous supply of rubbish bags would get things started.

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  16. Colville (2,198 comments) says:

    Firewood and forestry pruning are perfect jobs for the more trusted crims. Near Rangipo there are about 15 squillion pine trees!

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  17. Judith (8,462 comments) says:

    At long last, a Statement from John Key, I actually agree with.

    For some years it has bothered me that we pay such huge amounts to keep able bodied men and women in prison.

    We don’t just pay for their incarceration, but more often than not, support for their families as well via benefits.
    Not to mention the amount paid to support victims (which is far smaller than it should be).

    I have always believed that prisons should be based around production of some sort. Inmates requiring to work a 40+ hour per week. Are paid a wage, from which board is deducted. Any surplus is paid to family if required for support and to the victim for expenses incurred etc.

    Currently they receive a token payment for work, which is paid into an account for them to purchase ‘incidentals’ with (used to be tobacco).

    As well as providing a work ethic, it also provides skills, good habit formation, and even keeps the ‘mind’ busy. Boredom being a huge problem for inmates. Of course, there a some you wouldn’t allow a ballpoint pen, let alone a pair of scissors, but for the rest, such a scheme would be beneficial to their rehabilitation, and to the community in general especially financially.

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  18. Judith (8,462 comments) says:

    There aren’t jobs lost through such a scheme. If those people were in the community, as non-offenders they would still take up a job. What is lost is profit to other businesses, who have overheads that the prisons would not have. However, the benefit to the country via the lower cost of running prisons, welfare etc, would at lessen that damage, overall.

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  19. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    “It would be impractical to do at the maximum security prisons”
    Not sure that this is the case – I have a family member who used to work at maximum security prisons in the UK and they had education and work programs for them. They would exclude certain prisoners not deemed suitable for security reasons – but it wouldn’t necessarily be the ones you might think. Many of the murderers, armed robbers and terrorists were resigned to their long sentences and just looking for something to fill the time – access to work and training programs were offered as a carrot for good behaviour.

    This is a great policy – investing in these people is really important. It’s good to see what the process of setting a target and trying to meet it has achieved. The reality is the only way you are going to reduce reoffending is by investing in rehabilitation. Locking people up for as long as possible and making life as miserable as possible might make you feel better while they are in there – but it’s not that reassuring when they eventually get out and move into your neighbourhood and they are completely unsocialised, pissed off and alienated and have no skills that might find them employment.

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  20. Judith (8,462 comments) says:

    Richard29 (292) Says:
    January 30th, 2013 at 12:01 pm
    ————

    I agree Richard. Whilst there will always be those that cannot take part in any activities due to the level of danger they pose to themselves and others, there are many long-term inmates who embrace the chance to do something meaningful.

    One of the biggest problems we have with prisoners is keeping them active, not just physically. Bored minds are capable of causing a lot more mayhem, than some that is so damn tired, they just want to sleep after a big day’s work.

    Of course there is always the positive effect of rewards. Job advancement etc provides a powerful motivation when there is nothing else to think about.

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  21. dime (9,677 comments) says:

    isnt the point of prison to at least try and rehabilitate?

    picking up trash from the side of the highway isnt going to create a work ethic. its just outright punishment.

    if they are doing a semi normal job then they may get the point of working. self respect etc self esteem even.

    i dont think the prisons will go out of their way to undercut the competition. they can just make a higher margin. that helps pay for themselves…

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  22. Keeping Stock (10,184 comments) says:

    What Judith (11.56am) said. Let’s do something that may just help to rehabilitate a few of those at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It’s sensible and pragmatic policy, and if the civil libertarians get their knickers in a twist, so much the better :D

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  23. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    @Judith: “via the lower cost of running prisons”
    I don’t see a scenario where this reduces the cost of running prisons – even if the ambitious 25% reduction in reoffending is achieved which reduces prisoners long term – I would think it’s probably pretty easy to increase your cost per prisoner by more than a third with a decent work program. You would need far more prison officers plus additional staff to train and manage them, you need large on site facilities or travel too and from off site locations. Not to mention materials and/or equipment. If you produce with free labour and sell in the marketplace then you are effectively dumping product and puttting NZers out of work (or breaching trade rules if you try to export the product of prison labour) so you can’t really expect to make any money from the program.
    Keeping people under lock down in a (small) confined space with nothing to do is the cheapest way to manage them – some of the most profitable private prisons in the US have dropped training, education and work programs and reduced exercise time to the absolute minimum.

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  24. Viking2 (11,284 comments) says:

    Keeping Stock (8,534) Says:
    January 30th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    What Judith (11.56am) said. Let’s do something that may just help to rehabilitate a few of those at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It’s sensible and pragmatic policy, and if the civil libertarians get their knickers in a twist, so much the better :D

    ——————————
    Great idea KS. When they get released they can all go to your place for a job. Fun for you. :lol:

    and before you get all snarly, have been doing this for all my working life.

    Said to one of my girls today that it would good for her lazy boyfriend. Doesn’t like work much and currently on ACC but reckon he won’t want to go back inside if he has to work. Now he has choices. Great.

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  25. toms (301 comments) says:

    Here is a taster of National’s relentless focus on jobs via slave labour – http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/3849134/Cheap-prison-labour-not-a-good-look

    get ready for a lot more stories like this.

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  26. kowtow (7,960 comments) says:

    At $1 a bullet you could reduce serious reoffending 100% immediately.

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  27. hamnidaV2 (247 comments) says:

    I support this policy in principle.

    Here are some changes I would like to see to further promote the policy:

    1. Prisoners paid at least the minimum wage, so their labour does not create an unfair advantage in the labour market.

    2. The wage, less an allowance, be kept in a bank account for the inmate to use once he/she is released from prison.

    3. The savings in point two above could be a useful resource for prisoners who struggle to find work because they have a criminal record. For example, $150,000 of savings could be used to start a plumbing business instead of trying to find work as a plumber. The savings could also be used to prevent the ex-inmate from falling into the poverty-trap.

    4. The ability for an inmate to gain an actual apprenticeship while in prison. I think many trades employers would be more interested in employing an ex-inmate if it was known that they had applied themselves to a three to five year training programme while serving their sentence.

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  28. Judith (8,462 comments) says:

    I don’t advocate all the tasks should be meaningless ones.

    Waikeria has a huge amount of farmland. For years that farm has provided, not just produce to the prison, reducing costs, but has had an income. What I am saying is pay those that work that farm a normal wage – thus providing all the positive examples of working etc to them, BUT at the same time take the cost of their board off them (reducing the overall cost of imprisonment), make them support their family’s and repay the victim/s. Thus reducing the cost of welfare, and providing the victim with at least some recognition for their suffering.

    There is no reason why a factory could not be set up in the confines of many prisons. You may even find existing manufacturers prepared to do that.

    Sure, we are always going to have the cost of running prisons, and safety will always have to be provided, at a cost to the country, but the positives achieved by making these guys do a decent days work, in the long run will lessen the overall expense.

    I don’t agree with the US example. Their recidivism rate is through the roof. They have made cut backs, but prison offences have risen (those made by prisoners whilst incarcerated). The cost of maintaining their prison population is huge. Why do people insist on comparing our criminal institutions to the US. We don’t have the population, the economy or the legal structure to make us even closely comparable.

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  29. Judith (8,462 comments) says:

    kowtow (3,612) Says:
    January 30th, 2013 at 12:47 pm
    At $1 a bullet you could reduce serious reoffending 100% immediately.

    —————————
    Your reoffending rates would cease to exist, however, as has been proved by history, when you lower the value to life to such a degree, overall crime, in particular crimes against the person, go sky high.

    Do we really want that in this country?

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  30. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    @Hamnida v2

    Re: 3)
    I think it’d be great if most ex prisoners who were given $150k upon their release invested it wisely in a small business to provide a future income stream. But lets be realistic – numerous studies have shown that a huge number of inmates have serious substance abuse issues. Suddently giving $150k to a recovering drug addict is probably a good way of achieving the same result as kowtow’s approach but at a cost of $149,999 more…

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  31. Mark Craig (29 comments) says:

    Erm kow tow might a chap enquire from your esteemed good self what the thresh hold for the application of the $1 lead pill would be .Are we talking red light running ,jay walking ,or the other serious capital offence[ in wing nuts minds, any way]of voting centre left.Of course the usual Nazional Party supporter offence of dodgy Finance company operations ,fleecing pensioners would naturally be exempt.With deep thinking eejits like your good self in abundance in the Nazional /ACT party axis I would imagine it can only be a matter of time before you are promoted to the Minister of Justice post and I suspect Attorney General and Minister of Corrections to boot.Oh happy daze,Frick, Himmler ,Rohm and Eichmann , reincarnated in one glorious super judicial avenger dah dah Obergrupenfuhrer Kow tow.I am truly Gasted in my Flabbers,such profligate expense proposed,rope costs nothing and is reuasable .

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  32. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    I note that a few bleeding hearts still think that prisons are not for punishment but rehabilitation.

    By the time most criminals see the inside of a prison they have been through multiple Family Group Conferences & Youth Aid. They will have ignored fines, probation & community sentences until they finally commit an offence serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence. In other words they have made a choice to become career criminals……good luck with rehabilitating that lot.

    Many will be “mad not bad” but because of the socialist meddling of Dear Leader & others the safe residential facilities they need have been closed……instead there is prison or the street.

    The remainder will be largely made up of people who committed some serious crime often on the spur of the moment. Maybe they killed a cheating partner or shot someone in a hunting accident. They must be punished but rehabilitation is wasted effort for the simple reason that they are extremely unlikely to reoffend.

    Therefore let’s drop the crap about rehabilitation & shift the focus onto making prisoners work to cover the expense of their keep & look after their families (& victims) outside. To this end I suggest ‘Jaffa” at 11.42 has come up with the best idea so far.

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  33. thedavincimode (6,591 comments) says:

    Judith

    Would a work program have rehabilitated David Bain, or is he already one of the lucky ones who was on a work program?

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  34. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    nasska, I believe the prison system should be both rehabilitation and punishment. Refer to my Two Tier Prison System idea.

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  35. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    krazykiwi

    If rehab is feasible then your proposal has merit. I’m still not sold on the effectiveness of the focus on prisons ‘turning people around’ as opposed to punishing wrongdoing as I’m ever aware of the old maxim about “garbage in – garbage out”.

    However, I accept that what we are doing now is not working particularly well so maybe some innovation is overdue.

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  36. flipper (3,847 comments) says:

    For the benefit of those who cannot think, or are the blogging equivalents of stupid NIMBYS (see below), I repeat some of my earlier post:

    ” January 30th, 2013 at 10:34 am
    The problem with working prisons (apart from Pare [aka Paremax]) has NEVER, EVER been the inmates.

    They are bored shitless and, apart from the habitual druggies, would gladly work seven (7) days a week.

    The problem has always been the prison officer union (s). Sort out the shift and meal problems, and working prisons will “work”. Leave them untouched and they will fail to achieve their potential.

    But the main issue is what will they do for re-habitation and post-prison employment ? Provide the qualifying inmates with a meaningful qualification and post release employment opportunities (devoid of CP rubbish, except for a few) and working prisons will really work. ”

    I referred to NIMBYS. In this context I mean the “$ 1 bullet” and “prison is for punishment” brigade.
    Such comments (and similar) simply demonstrate a total lack of knowledge and a “NIMBY” attitude.

    Some 110 years ago, Winston Spencer Churchill reminded the House of Commons that a nation could/would be judged on how it treated those it had imprisoned. Prison, Churchill asserted, was for rehabilitation. The deprivation of liberty was the punishment. He later made examples of several thugs running British military prisons, to remind them of that principle.

    My own experience involved challenging a Human Rights Commissioner and a Corrections Department Chief Executive to approach such issues on the basis that they, or their spouses or children might be inmates. They got the message and, aided by support from the Ombudsman at the time, things changed for better, which is to say for the benefit of the whole community.

    So, $1 bullet man et al : You, your wife, or your child?

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  37. David Garrett (6,786 comments) says:

    Judith: I no longer advocate capital punishment for this country, but your claim that “bullet justice” increases the incidence of crime against the person is simply not supported by the evidence. Singapore, Malaysia and Japan all use CP regularly, and their homicide rates are considerably lower than here. Whether we would wish to live in such a society is another question,.

    The thing that puzzles me about his whole “work in prisons” issue is how they have resolved the problem of UN conventions that the Dear Leader signed us up to which preclude requiring prisoners to work – that was the reason cited when ACT raised this issue during my time. Anyone with accurate information as to how the Nats have got round that problem could perhaps share it.

    Knowing the timid Key government, I very much doubt the answer is simply that they have given the one fingered solute to the UN.

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  38. thedavincimode (6,591 comments) says:

    picking up trash from the side of the highway isnt going to create a work ethic. its just outright punishment.

    if they are doing a semi normal job then they may get the point of working. self respect etc self esteem even.

    dime

    Are prisoners above doing the menial and tedious work that others do because they want to work?

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  39. nasska (10,917 comments) says:

    flipper

    Firstly, we all had the opportunity to read your gems of wisdom at 10.34am. We also had the opportunity to ignore them.

    Secondly, the relevance of NIMBY (not in my back yard) escapes me.

    Thirdly, your efforts in ” challenging a Human Rights Commissioner and a Corrections Department Chief Executive” should not go unrewarded & to this end I hope that Kim Workman realises that nominating you for recognition in the next Honours List is the least he can do.

    While I am happy to ignore the resident lunatic’s puerile proposal of a bullet do you genuinely consider that the current fad of rehabilitating prisoners has had any measurable success in reducing reoffending?

    Because if it hasn’t we should get back to providing humane incarceration while protecting society from its dregs for as long as possible.

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  40. kowtow (7,960 comments) says:

    People with a barrow to push will push.

    A society is judged by how it treats it’s prisoners,it’s about rehabilitation,they have “rights”

    N0ne of the above. For the most seruious and dangerous ,they lose their rights,go to prison to be kept away from the rest osof law abiding society. Don’t like it? Fine ,don’t commoi crime,simple really.

    As to the rest,yes educate them (again) provide the opportunity for learning (again) But how many times?

    And nasska…..”residenrt lunatic”? You can fuck off too.
    Ithink a society will be judged by how it treats it’s unborn. They never get a say,an appeal, a taxpayer funded lawyer,a bill of rights,an ombudsman………

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  41. Rex Widerstrom (5,330 comments) says:

    Giving prisoners work has all the positive benefits one might expect. However I see no solution above to the problem of what happens next – getting them work when they’re released. In summary:

    If the work is chipping weeds in the high country so as to avoid private sector competition, then there are no weed-chipping jobs in the private sector when they’re released, and they have no real skill to offer an employer.

    If you set up manufacturing in prisons, it is economically viable only because labour costs are low and therefore again there would be no equivalent jobs in the private sector once they’re released.

    Establish a business in a jail which is both intrinsically viable and provides real training and you start competing with the private sector, destroying not creating jobs on the “outside”.

    It’s an insoluble problem, unless the government is at least as focused on job creation as it is on looking tough on law ‘n’ order and punishing beneficiaries for not finding jobs that simply don’t exist.

    To work as intended (and the stated intent is to reduce reoffending by putting prisoners into work after release) the economy would need to first absorb virtually every other jobseeker because most employers will understandably favour applicants with no criminal record.

    Which is not to say that work and training should not take place in prisons; they are valuable in their own right. But to place upon it an expectation of a 25% reduction in reoffending is profoundly unrealistic given the above.

    So what will happen in a few year’s time when recidivism hasn’t fallen by anything close to that amount? Prisoners will go back to loafing about watching daytime TV? Or will it be used as an excuse to introduce a harsh regime of pointless hard labour for even the non-dangerous prisoners because they’re “not responding” to properly structured work programs?

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  42. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    There has always been work in NZ prisons.. It is not a new idea. Prisoners at Rolleston prison work in the gardens and go out to work in forests. In the past there were prison farms which supplied other prisons with produce.

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  43. Ross12 (1,281 comments) says:

    Listening to a couple of guys on talk back this morning who used to work in the prison system in the 50s-70s they say all prisons used to be working prisons ( including the borstals). Many had huge workshops giving training in all sorts of skills. For example they used to make all the office furniture for the Govt. departments. They had huge gardens supplying alot of the food for the prisons etc etc. Apparently many prisoners went out to work in local factories and there were very few “incidents’
    It all changed in the early 80′s when it was decided that rehab programs would be better. ( I’m not sure what rehab program would be better than learning work skills and good work habits )

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  44. MT_Tinman (3,055 comments) says:

    Rex, there are 8493 different organisations working on finding employment for prisoners when they are released.

    Ensuring that they have a work ethic ingrained while they are imprisoned can only help these organisations succeed no matter what the work while inside involves.

    As for motivating prisoners to work a simple explanation that work = eating, non-work = not eating will work wonders.

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  45. Steve (North Shore) (4,524 comments) says:

    40 hours per week? What?? you expect a crim to work 40 hours per week?
    The scum should be working at least 55 or more for the priviledges they get.
    Prison is NOT A FUCKING HOTEL

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  46. weizguy (120 comments) says:

    This is pure spin and completely dishonest. Prisoners work in every single one of our prisons. From my knowledge, Rolleston isn’t separately designated a working prison, it just happens to have more employment because it has lower security prisoners. They’re doing a 40 hour week because they want to be out of prison longer (that’s right, they’re on “day release” to work) Many of them will be doing longer if they can – and they are paid.

    National have been trying to repackage things that were being done before they came in as new initiatives. Of course, what they don’t mention is that there’s only so much work in prisons, and extending prisoner hours to 40 per week will likely result in less prisoners working overall.

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  47. Left Right and Centre (2,887 comments) says:

    Read the posts….

    kowtow.. to have a barrow to push… added to my lexicon.

    This is a tentative fairly ignorant opinion….. I don’t know about making prisoners work 40 hours a week…. but trying to train them at something useful for when they get out… that’s worth a shot now, isn’t it?

    It would give them a chance to prove themselves as human beings while they are still inside. They could have the chance to build up a good track record. They can build up something to lose, so that there’s more chance they won’t *want* to then lose it.

    Of course any kind of scheme works best with people who really do want to change for the better. Safety of course is an issue. For those who can keep ‘climbing the ladder’ without incident- who keep showing improvement and promise with no issues- who don’t cause problems and can effectively earn some basic trust- why not try to help them?

    You start them off at intro level and then when they’ve proven themselves there… you’re onto the next level and so on. They’re on a good behaviour bond… pull a stunt and that’s it. Otherwise… yeah, work them up to outside apprenticeships, trade work, computer skills… get them out into a work environment somewhere….

    Won’t work for a lot of them seeing as they might be thick as pig shit or just pricks.

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