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.