Inmate Work Scheme Launched

  • Nick Smith

Corrections Minister, Nick Smith, today launched an ambitious Government plan to get prison inmates doing real work. The scheme seeks to attract private businesses to provide work for 500 inmates in New Zealand's 18 prisons by the end of 2000.

"Idle hands do make for the devil's work. We want inmates, while they are doing time to be gaining employable skills and contributing towards the cost of their keep. This is good news for inmates, society and the taxpayer. Inmates improve their chances of getting employment on release, rates of re-offending are reduced and income is generated to offset the cost of incarceration."

"We need to be sure that the scheme is not displacing the jobs of other New Zealanders. Businesses will be carefully screened by the Inmate Work Steering Committee which includes both Union and Employers Federation representatives. Proposals must create new work and not reduce or take away employment outside of prisons.

"The Department of Corrections has maximised prison associated inmate work in the kitchens, gardens and laundry to make prisons as self-sufficient as possible. The Government believes it is a mistake to have the Department directly involved in running businesses and got its fingers badly burnt over the Wanganui Shoe Factory. This scheme is all about tapping private sector expertise into making successful and profitable real work for inmates. The scheme puts a very strong emphasis on developing inmate skills and qualifications."

"Getting prisoners working has been shown to be popular with both the public and inmates. A nationwide survey conducted last month found 86% of New Zealanders support inmates working in prison while 8% oppose. A recent survey of inmates showed 91% of inmates welcomed the chance to work while in prison, citing reduced boredom, the opportunity to gain new skills and the small payment."

Prison work will not be compulsory but inmates will receive on average $13 per week. The employer will contract with the Department of Corrections at a commercial rate, taking into account the level of skill, the required higher levels of supervision, the degree to which inmates are trained and gain qualifications and productivity. The balance between the amount paid by the private sector business and that paid to the inmate will be used to offset the $50,000 a year that it costs to incarcerate an inmate.


Inmate Work Scheme

50% of all inmates have never had a job.

The cost of keeping an inmate in prison is:

Minimum $52,044

Medium $53,677

Maximum $71,259

Remand $52,242

  • The Inmate Work Scheme does comply with ILO guidelines.
  • The pilot inmate work scheme provided the Department with $235,000 from private businesses last financial year.
  • US research showed that recidivism dropped from 20% for inmates not involved in prison work to 6.6% for those doing work.
  • A nationwide survey of community attitudes to prisoners doing work found 86% in favour, 8% against.
  • A survey of inmates found 91% welcomed the chance to be involved in prison work.
  • Inmate work is not compulsory. Payment averages $13/week.
  • The Department of Corrections will supervise the inmates and be responsible fo security.
  • The campaign to attract private sector businesses will involve advertising in major newspapers and trade journals seeking expressions of interest which will then be followed up with detailed information.
  • The Department will vet all prospective businesses with assistance of Inmate Working Steering Committee which includes CTU, Employers Association representatives to ensure jobs are not being taken from other New Zealanders.
  • Government target of 500 new work places by end of Year 2000.