Pubdate: Mon, 13 Feb 2006
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2006 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Prisons Have Pulled Out Their Vegetable Gardens And Are Buying Their 
Food In From Outside In A Move To Cut The Costs Of Prison Employment.

Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor has told National MP Simon Power 
in written answers to parliamentary questions that horticulture has 
been abandoned at eight of the 12 prisons where it existed five years ago.

Nurseries have been closed at five of the 12 prisons that had them. 
Joinery has stopped at three prisons, light engineering at two, and 
contract gangs going out to forestry and other work have stopped at two others.

Corrections Department chief executive Barry Matthews said the 
closures had cut losses on the prisons' $50 million a year work 
programmes from $8.6 million in 2002 to $3.8 million last year.

Prisoners working for the business unit Corrections Inmate Employment 
dropped from 41 per cent in 2001 to 31 per cent last year. But Mr 
Matthews has set a target of lifting that back up to half of the 
country's 7500 prisoners.

"The reality is that some of them are on drugs, and for some there 
are security issues, but if we could get that up to half - which 
would be a big ask - everybody would agree that that's desirable," he said.

"But in doing that, we want to make sure we are not just getting them 
weeding bits of land. The main focus is providing sustainable 
post-release employment, so we want them to get work skills and a 
work ethic and be able to go and get a job."

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon said that at Hawkes 
Bay Prison, where he works, 40 prisoners lost their jobs when the 
prison abandoned an organic vegetable growing enterprise and leased 
out the land to a local cattle farmer.

"They now sit in their units doing nothing," he said.

Almost all the prisons still employ prisoners in internal kitchen and 
laundry work, and many still have other industries such as a workshop 
at Paremoremo which makes precast concrete beams for the new prisons 
being built near Meremere and Dunedin.

Employed prisoners earn an average of about $18 a week.

But Mr Hanlon said: "They buy all the produce in. They used to grow it all."

Prison Fellowship director Kim Workman, who managed the Prison 
Service from 1989-93, said the policy of running prison work on a 
commercial basis was wrong.

"This isn't about running a commercial venture. This is about 
teaching them a work ethic and providing them with constructive 
activity so they don't delve into drugs and anti-social conduct," he said.

"And there is a huge therapy in gardening. My experience is that for 
the men who work in the gardens there is a special element of contact 
with nature. There is a spiritual element to it. There is the thing 
of seeing something grow before your eyes rather than doing meaningless work."

Mr Matthews, a former top police officer who took over Corrections 
last February, said some prison managers were keen to bring back 
vegetable gardens for internal prison use, and they would be allowed to do so.

"It's an issue, as I have travelled round the country, as to whether 
we shouldn't get back into at least growing vegetables for our own 
consumption," he said.

"It will be up to individual site managers. If they have corrections 
officers that are guarding prisons, the next question is, can those 
people be used to guard prisoners outside the wire where there are 
additional costs involved? Some of the site managers are very keen to 
do that. It's a matter of assessing each of the sites."


* Paremoremo: horticulture, timber processing. * Mt Eden: 
manufacturing (moved to Paremoremo). * Waikeria: light engineering, 
nurseries, other land-based work. * Ohura: horticulture (prison 
closed). * Turangi: horticulture, nurseries. * New Plymouth: contract 
gangs. * Wanganui: contract gangs, horticulture, textiles. * Hawkes 
Bay: nurseries. * Manawatu: joinery. * Rimutaka: light engineering. * 
Arohata: horticulture. * Christchurch: joinery. * Christchurch 
Women's: horticulture, nurseries. * Dunedin: joinery. * Invercargill: 
horticulture, nurseries.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom