• Nick Smith

Corrections Minister Nick Smith welcomed today the Prime Minister's opening of the country's first self-care units at Christchurch Women's Prison, saying the new approach would help the rehabilitation of inmates back into the community.

"Releasing inmates "cold turkey" into the community is a recipe for disaster. Self-care units enable an inmate to re-establish basic living skills and individual responsibility through doing their own cooking, cleaning, laundry and budgeting in a flatting environment while still within the secure perimeter fence of the prison. The self-care units will also extend the options available for inmates who are new mothers. An added bonus is that the units will save the taxpayer approximately $30,000 per inmate, compared with custodial care in a larger prison, " Mr Smith said.

The four new self-care units at Christchurch Women's Prison are part of a national strategy of reducing re-offending levels. Units are also being planned for Hawkes Bay and Wanganui Regional Prisons. The units will be managed as the highest order privilege within the prison for the final stage of a person's sentence. If an inmate breaches the privileges they receive while in the unit, they will be returned to a prison cell under tighter control.

"These new self-care units are part of a deliberate strategy to increase the incentives for inmates to reform. A tougher regime with less privileges has been implemented for inmates intent on bucking the system, whereas these self-care units provide a softer regime for those genuinely committed to rehabilitation," Mr Smith said.

Prime Minister, Minister of Women's Affairs and local MP, Rt Hon Jenny Shipley warmly endorsed the initiative.

"The Coalition Government wants to get the balance right, in our prisons policy, between the carrot and the stick. Inmates that want to continue with recalcitrant behaviour can expect a firm approach from government, but for those that are motivated to address the causes of their offending and reform, we want to get alongside them and help rebuild their lives. The focus of these new units must be on reducing re-offending rates," the Prime Minister said.