Prisoners in Wellington go through thousands of sheets of paper a week printing brochures, booklets, business cards and letterheads while learning new skills in jail.
At least 16,000 printed sheets of A4 paper a week leave the Print Shop in Wellington's Mt Crawford Prison, which is moving to a larger 473-square-metre facility at the new Rimutaka Prison by December 6.
In 2000, as part of the Corrections Inmate Employment programme to reduce inmates' risk of reoffending by boosting job skills, it hired longtime print manager Terry O'Leary to formally train prisoners.
In the past three years, 163 imprisoned men have achieved formal NZQA qualifications while working at the Print Shop. Several have gone on to work in the field after leaving prison.
"I'd like to think we run this place just like an outside printer would run their shop," O'Leary said. "We have the same constraints of production time and same standards for everything, so it is good for the guys.
"It's nice to see the inmates [who] start from nothing get their name on their first NZQA certificate, then they have got a bit of self-confidence. A lot of these guys have really got a lack of self-esteem."
Offender employment manager Ruth Turner said the programme gave offenders a real work ethic and sense of what a structured work day looked like.
Specialising in short-run colour work, the Print Shop produces all the Corrections Department's business cards, booklets and training manuals as well as printing for other government departments.
"Mostly we do government work but a bit of outside work [too]," O'Leary said. "If local schools or communities approach us we'll do work for them but obviously we don't go out looking for work because it wouldn't be ethical - we don't do that at all.
"Word of mouth gets out. Grey Power comes to us for their printing."
It leases some of its larger machines and owns some smaller equipment.
It is moving to digital equipment, which is the direction the industry is heading, so its older printing presses that use plates, ink and water won't be transferred to Rimutaka.
The newer machinery spits out material already folded and stapled, whereas with previous printing presses, inmates had to do stapling by hand. The older machinery was also more complex to operate.
"The beauty of the new machines is that it is guaranteed quality.
"The print world is moving towards digital, it's the way of the future," O'Leary said.
"The main challenge for me is getting guys up to speed and getting them skilled, then they get released and you start again with a new lot.
"It's like the All Blacks: you get a great side then someone will retire and you get a newbie coming through. That's a challenge all the time because we have still got to meet production times."
One of the prisoners it trained was the first person in the country to earn NZQA's Diploma in Print Management and is now working in the industry in Auckland. O'Leary said some inmates telephoned him after their release to let him know how they were getting on in the workforce but for most that contact petered out.
"That's how it should be. They've got a life to lead on the outside, which is good."
- The Dominion Post
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