Jail house makes great es­cape


It was a great es­cape from Rimu­taka Prison, but it was not a pris­oner that cleared the ra­zor-wire, but a house.

Built by eight Hous­ing NZ, the home is destined Lower Hutt.

With a large crowd of ner­vous of­fi­cials watch­ing, it was gin­gerly lifted over the wire and on to the back of a wait­ing truck.

The house was built un­der the su­per­vi­sion of WelTec staff who run six trade pro­grammes in the Up­per Hutt prison.

Rimu­taka Prison di­rec­tor Viv Whe­lan said the pro­ject was a sig­nif­i­cant one. ‘‘Not only is this the first house to be built in the prison, it also pro­vides hope for a pos­i­tive fu­ture for the men who built it, and for the fam­ily who will live in it,’’ she said.

‘‘The men now have prac­ti­cal, hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence backed up with a qual­i­fi­ca­tion that will help them into em­ploy­ment on re­lease.’’

One per­son who un­der­stood the im­por­tance of gain­ing a qual­i­fi­ca­tion was one of the pris­on­ers, who can­not be named, who was do­ing a WelTec course. A first-time pris­oner, he was work­ing on get­ting a plumb­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion he hoped would help him find a job in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

He ac­cepted that he had made a mis­take and said he did not want to waste his time in prison.

The pub­lic had the wrong im­pres­sion of pris­on­ers. Just about ev­ery­one in prison would one day get out and the best way of mak­ing sure they did not re­turn was find­ing them a job, he said.

If he was not study­ing, he would be back in his cell do­ing noth­ing. He would be ‘‘an id­iot’’ to turn pris­on­ers for two-bed­room for a site in down the op­por­tu­nity of free ed­u­ca­tion, he said.

Chris Hip­kins, who is the lo­cal MP for Rimu­taka and Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, said up­skilling pris­on­ers meant they were less likely to re­of­fend. It also helped deal with the ‘‘wider ‘‘ is­sue of the need for more houses.

Pris­on­ers are build­ing a sec­ond home and Hip­kins said the scheme had the po­ten­tial to sup­ply houses on a larger scale.

It was also good to see Hous­ing NZ, Cor­rec­tions and ed­u­ca­tion providers work­ing to­gether co­op­er­a­tively, he said.

Cor­rec­tions chief ex­ec­u­tive Ray Smith said pro­vid­ing train­ing was ‘‘ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal’’ to re­duce prison num­bers.

Two-thirds of pris­on­ers were un­em­ployed when they com­mit­ted their crime and it was in so­ci­ety’s best in­ter­ests to find them work when they get out, he said.

For many men, the the qual­i­fi­ca­tion they get in prison will be their first. Na­tion­ally, there had been a change of at­ti­tude and em­ploy­ers are now much more will­ing to em­ploy pris­on­ers af­ter they have been re­leased.

In the last fi­nan­cial year, 3894 pris­on­ers achieved a qual­i­fi­ca­tion na­tion­ally, Smith said.


A house built by eight pris­on­ers is lifted over the wire at Up­per Hutt’s Rimu­taka Prison. It will be used as a state house in Lower Hutt.

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