Help­ing turn lives around

Waikato News - - Front Page - Ged Cann

A new ini­tia­tive in Spring Hill prison may well turn some lightfin­gered types into green-fin­gered gar­den­ers.

Pris­on­ers in the self-care units, which are four-bed­room bun­ga­lows out­side the main cell blocks, are now en­cour­aged to keep their own gar­dens, and use the pro­duce to sup­ple­ment their own meals.

The prison al­ready had a horticulture train­ing area where in­mates could earn up to a level four NCEA qual­i­fi­ca­tions, but now plants from the area are trans­planted to small per­sonal vege gar­dens.

Cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer Shane Pot­ter said the ob­jec­tive was to have each house­hold work­ing as a team.

“We are go­ing to test the pris­on­ers to make healthy choices when de­vel­op­ing amenu,” he said.

“We have the pris­on­ers gain ex­pe­ri­ence in good bud­get­ing and shop­ping skills, and teach them healthy cook­ing skills and a bit of self-suf­fi­ciency.”

In­ter­nal grounds and horticulture in­struc­tor Hay­den Veart said the pris­on­ers re­ally got en­gaged and of­ten had com­pe­ti­tions for who could grow the best plants.

“There are quite a few Maori pris­on­ers here and we talk about them go­ing back with a bit more mana when they go back to their iwi, teach­ing their kids how to plant. I’ve had a cou­ple of pris­on­ers who do every­thing by the Maori cal­en­dar by plant­ing to lu­nar cy­cles. They get pretty good re­sults,” he said.

Par­tic­i­pants in the horticulture course are ex­pected to learn the Euro­pean, Maori and Latin names of each plant.

We are go­ing to test the pris­on­ers to make healthy choices when de­vel­op­ing amenu Shane Pot­ter, Cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer

A sec­ond ini­tia­tive within the self­care units sees young dogs given to spe­cially se­lected in­mates to train in a va­ri­ety of house­hold chores, from load­ing and un­load­ing clothes dry­ers to pulling doors open and push­ing them closed.

The ini­tia­tive is run along­side the Mo­bil­ity As­sis­tance Dogs Trust and there are reg­u­larly eight dogs be­ing trained at any given time.

One in­mate cho­sen for the pro­gramme has been train­ing the dogs for two years, with four dogs trained in that time.

“The dogs are usu­ally six to eight months old when they come in, then they stay on un­til about 18 months. They need to be pretty onto it to con­tinue on and be­come mo­bil­ity dogs. It’s def­i­nitely the best job in the prison,” he said.

“There’s no short­age of time to train the dogs, that’s the main thing.”

Se­nior cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer Dave Milne said the dogs could also be trained to fetch spe­cific items, whether that be the tele­vi­sion re­mote or a pair of socks.

There is also a train­ing yard in the prison for in­mates to gain qual­i­fi­ca­tions in paint­ing, plumb­ing, build, con­struc­tion and trades (BCAT), engi­neer­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity, horticulture and agri­cul­ture.

Pris­on­ers who are deemed safe for ex­ter­nal work are of­ten taken from the trades area to help re­fur­bish Hous­ing New Zealand houses in ex­ter­nal work­shops.

An in­mate wa­ters his veg­etable patch at Spring Hill Corrections Fa­cil­ity.

An in­mate trains his mo­bil­ity as­sis­tant dog to load a dryer.

In­ter­nal grounds and hor­ti­cul­ture in­struc­tor Hay­den Veart ex­plains how in­mates grow plants from cut­tings for use out­side the prison.

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