Otago Corrections Facility manager Jack Harrison (left) and dairy farm principal instructor Tony Russell on the farm
near Milton. The prison is visible in the background. Photo by Timothy Brown
The entranceway to the 21st century edifice which occupies a
60ha site outside Milton is the last landmark before tarseal
gives way to gravel on Narrowdale Rd.
Just around the corner, two large gum trees stand guard at
the entrance to a dairy farm and down the driveway workers
can be seen performing their daily tasks.
They look like workers on any dairy farm, but at the end of
the working day these workers will return to that edifice in
the distance because this is the Otago Corrections Facility's
At the end of the driveway, I am greeted by the dairy farm's
principal instructor, Tony Russell.
He takes me into the converted homestead, which acts as a
smoko and training room, where we are joined by Otago
Corrections Facility prison manager Jack Harrison.
The 125ha farm is milking about 360 cows this year and about
15 prisoners now get the opportunity to work on the farm.
The motivation for providing the prisoners with the work
experience is simple, Mr Harrison says.
''For every one prisoner who doesn't go on to offend again,
there's six to eight victims which don't exist.''
Mr Harrison is aware the scheme is not popular with everyone
in the community.
''There's a lot of people of the bread-and-water and
breaking-rocks-for-hours-a-day mindset, but that's not the
way to prepare these guys to be our neighbours,'' he says.
''There's guys in there who are locked up for 23 hours a day
and they are not going to be well-prepared to be positive
members of our community.''
The prisoners who work on the farm come from the prison's
self-care units, where the prisoners are given as much
freedom as is possible behind walls.
''I would like it if everyone who got released from here got
released from the self-care units, but that's not the
reality,'' Mr Harrison said.
The prisoners who worked on the farm were taught a wide
variety of skills, from milking and calf-rearing to fencing
The prisoners were able to gain unit standards through the
work and for many they were the first qualifications they had
received, Mr Harrison said.
''A lot of them have nothing; they have left school before
NCEA level one.''
Mr Russell said illiteracy was a problem many of the
prisoners needed to overcome.
''The guy who doesn't want to do it [sit unit standards],
nine times out of 10 he can't read or write properly.''
The results of the training are apparent to Mr Harrison and
Mr Russell as both have received calls from employers and
former prisoners thanking them for the work they put into
preparing the prisoners for the workforce.
A big part of the success was their attitude towards the
He could find out about the background of the prisoners who
worked on the farm, but did not do so, Mr Russell said.
''When they walk in that door, they are just a person.
''Treat them with respect and you tend to find they treat you
The crew now working on the farm had no dairy farm experience
- ''but everything is going smoothly''.
The crew was split into two shifts, one group doing the
morning milking and the other the afternoon milking.
The morning crew was rewarded for the early start, Mr Russell
''They get picked up at half past five to do the morning
milking and for that they get a cooked breakfast, which isn't
very substantial but they love it.''
Many took the chance to work on the farm to be outside the
prison's walls, but many of them also came to love the work,
One prisoner who spoke to Southern Rural Life said being
outdoors was the most appealing aspect of working on the farm
when he first began.
''It's good doing any kind of work, but this is more
enjoyable work for myself and it certainly beats sitting in
the wing doing nothing,'' he said.
He now found working with animals was something he enjoyed
and hoped to have more opportunities to do so in the future.
''I'm looking forward to getting out, especially when I have
got some skills,'' he said.
- by Timothy Brown
Otago Corrections Facility Dairy Farm
- 125ha effective.
- Prisoners have worked the farm since July 2007. 386 cows to
calve this year.
- About 360 cows being milked this year.
- Production for 2007/08: 400 cows produced 104,277kg.
- Production for 2012/13: 340 cows produced 124,600kg.
- Estimated production for 2013/14: 132,000kg.
- Stocking rate: 3.1kg.
- Breeding worth: 83/39.
- Production worth : 110/63.
- Somatic cell count: Averaging between 51,000-52,000.
- Winner of the 2012 Ballance Environment Award for
- About 15 prisoners work on the farm at present with hopes
to raise that number to 24.
- Prisoners paid between 40c and 60c an hour.