Prisoners will gain valuable skills in the rapidly expanding industry of organics with the opening of two organic farms today at Christchurch Men’s Prison, Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor says.
Mr O'Connor officially opened the gardens with support from Organics Certification Body, AgriQuality, advisory organisation Organics Aotearoa New Zealand and produce supplier Fresh Direct (August 17, 2007)
The gardens will provide employment for up to 12 minimum-security prisoners at Christchurch Men’s Prison and four minimum-security prisoners at Christchurch Women’s Prison.
Mr O’Connor said the gardens will be modelled on the existing market garden at Rolleston Prison in Christchurch which provides employment for 20 prisoners and produces 150 tonnes of crops a year for sale to the market. Work is underway to expand the venture in other prisons.
“The two gardens opened today are the next phase of organics expansion for Corrections Inmate Employment, with further growth opportunities being explored at Waikeria and Central North Island prisons,” Mr O’Connor said.
Prisoners working within the gardens will receive training by qualified instructors and work towards gaining a NZQA National Certificate in Horticulture (Level 2), which will increase their chances of finding work on release, Mr O'Connor said.
"Gaining employment is a fundamentally important part of prisoner rehabilitation. We know that if prisoners move into meaningful work on their release there is much less chance of them re-offending, so the community benefits as a result," said Mr O'Connor.
"That is why these kinds of relationships between businesses and Corrections are hugely beneficial to society, particularly in these times of record low unemployment."
The department has made good progress in increasing the number of prisoner work and training opportunities over the last year, Mr O'Connor said.
"In rural areas in particular, this has been a welcome addition to the workforce."
Organic demand outstripping supply
Mr O'Connor said CIE has a strong relationship with Fresh Direct Ltd, which considers the department as one of its major suppliers.
Organics Aotearoa New Zealand research indicates New Zealand organic exports are worth around $100m a year and the industry is continuing to grow with demand outstripping supply.
Prison-grown produce will include garlic, French beans, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, leeks, potatoes and pumpkin.