Prisoners to be offered course in carpentry

Otago Corrections Facility hopes teaching its prisoners to use tools will make them less likely to turn to crime when they are released.

The facility has signed a letter of agreement for Otago Polytechnic to teach carpentry to about 14 inmates at the prison, near Milton, in an effort to reduce reoffending. The 17-week course will start on August 19.

Otago Corrections Facility prison manager Jack Harrison said offering the programme to prisoners was aimed at giving them employment opportunities so they were less likely to turn to crime once they had served their time.

''Carpentry skills are in high demand in the South Island, and it is hoped to engage some prisoners in Canterbury reconstruction activities while still in prison and then employment in carpentry on release,'' Mr Harrison said.

The department was committed to a 25% reduction in reoffending by 2017 and providing education and employment opportunities was part of that, he said.

To ensure the safety of polytechnic staff members who will teach at the prison, Otago Corrections Facility will provide a health and safety, and risk management induction.

Polytechnic carpentry programme manager Graham Burgess said the programme would give inmates ''high-quality, hands-on training''.

''We're prepared to make every effort to see these guys through to the end of the programme, so they're equipped with a desirable skill-set they can use in the outside world.''

Trainees would study areas including health and safety, using hand and power tools, construction techniques and planning and laying out construction sites.

Completion of the course would give prisoners a pathway towards the polytechnic's national certificate in carpentry, level 4.

The polytechnic and Corrections would investigate opportunities to develop more programmes for next year.

Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell said the course at the prison was an extension of its free trades programme. Corrections would pay for materials.

''We have got to remember that everyone is entitled to a good education,'' Mr Waddell said.

The partnership between the polytechnic and the prison came as Corrections Minister Anne Tolley yesterday announced a new education strategy for prisoners.

As part of the strategy, every offender would have an education assessment when they entered prison, which would be used to develop an individual learning and training plan.

''We know that the majority of prisoners can't read or write properly, and that this is a serious driver of crime.

''Offenders who are in employment and have stability in their lives are less likely to reoffend,'' Mrs Tolley said.



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