Ex-cons could help put Christchurch right

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2012
Christchurch Men's Prison
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

BEHIND BARS: Visitors get a look at Christchurch Men's Prison.

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Having former prisoners work on Christchurch's earthquake rebuild would help cut reoffending rates, the Corrections Department says.

An open day at Christchurch Men's Prison yesterday showed potential employers the training courses on offer in a bid to encourage more companies to employ prisoners after they were released.

The first prisoners undertaking diplomas in plumbing and drainlaying, automotive engineering, and painting and plastering are due to finish their 17-week courses next month.

The training will prepare prisoners for work on the quake rebuild once they are ready for release.

"We know that being in work is a very significant factor in people staying away from crime," Corrections rehabilitation and reintegration general manager Alison Thom said.

A "community effort" was needed for that to happen, including employers giving prisoners a chance to work.

"Often the thing that most stands in the way after they're rehabilitated and trained is people's misunderstanding and prejudices," she said.

Southern regional manager for prison services Ian Bourke said about 50 per cent of freed prisoners reoffended. "That's what we've got to stop."

Corrections aimed to show prisoners "different pathways" in life, and he believed that securing a job after getting out of jail would help stop many of them from reoffending.

"We are part of the wider community and that's the way we want to operate," he said.

Fulton Hogan business development manager Kenny Corrigan, who is also chairman of the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation, visited a prison for the first time yesterday.

Trades-trained prisoners would be needed to work on Christchurch's rebuild because of a nationwide skills shortage, Corrigan said. "We're going to have shortages in lots of areas."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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