New Zealand Puts Prisons to Work

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy www.odt.co.nz-

As part of a sustained initiative to decrease crime rates in the country, the New Zealand government is placing a major emphasis on getting today’s prisoners ready for employment when they go home. 

New Zealand’s crime rate is at a 35-year low, but the government intends to maintain the downward trajectory.  Its aim is to reduce crime by a further 20% by 2017.  Since repeat offenses by ex-cons make up a significant proportion of crimes, a major part of the strategy is to reduce re-offending by those who are already serving time.

The Department of Corrections aims to reduce re-offending by 25%.  Since a key factor in deciding whether a released offender will go straight or end up back behind bars is their employment status, a substantial effort is underway to ensure that inmates gain the skills and qualifications they need to obtain and keep a job.

Vocational training for real jobs.

Programs are being designed to lead to nationally-recognized qualifications that future employers will be happy to accept.  An example is the fifteen-week course leading to the National Certificate in Fitness Foundation Skills, which started at Rimutaka Prison in August.  Students are learning about nutrition, exercise, health and safety, customer services, and business practices in the fitness industry.

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