Home building leader in favour of extending work skills programmes at Ngawha Prison

1 December 2010

Home building leader in favour of extending work skills programmes at Ngawha Prison

The leader of a supportive home building organisation has heaped praise on the standard of craftsmanship prisoners at Ngawha Regional Correctional Facility are producing for the affordable homes, indicating he would like to see the programmes extended even further.

The plaudit was received following eleven prisoners’ latest efforts building the wall frames and 17 roof trusses of a new four-bedroom home that went up in Dargaville. This was the fourth house in Northland to be built with assistance from the NorthTec Carpentry Programme at Ngawha. The other houses to be built in Northland since 2006 with the support of Habitat for Humanity were in Kaeo, Waikare near Russell, and east of Whangarei.

A NorthTec and Department of Corrections-led initiative, the programmes give prisoners at Ngawha Prison in Northland the chance to undertake Levels 2 and 3 carpentry courses from inside the compound.

Following the successful build in Dargaville, the programme has been endorsed in the best way possible, with the quality of the prisoner’s work said by Northland Habitat for Humanity Chairman David Reyburn to be of a “very high standard,” where he has described the work as accurate and very neat.

“They do the frames and trusses for us, and when we put them together they fit neatly. We supply them with the plans and source the timber locally, and they make up the frames and trusses.”

Mr Reyburn says working with Habitat for Humanity is also a great opportunity for prisoners to further their education whilst giving something back to the community.

“This project has really given the prisoners the chance to put their new construction skills to use and work together in teams to get the job done. The programme is a great way for prisoners to learn new employment skills and potentially find themselves a place in the labour market once they leave prison. Research indicates that prisoners who find sustainable employment on release are less likely to re-offend, helping make communities safer,” he said.

The work being produced is so impressive Mr Reyburn is in favour of having Ngawha prisoners enhance their skills even further.

Shane Walden, one of the programme’s two NorthTec tutors showing the prisoners ‘pathways out of an offending lifestyle’ says at the time of the programme’s inception, the concept was the first in New Zealand to try to establish if vocational training of its kind could be successful in such an environment. With five vocational courses now offered by NorthTec as part of the Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) Programme it appears the right formula has been struck. Like Mr Walden, Mr Reyburn would like to see the programme extended to give prisoners even greater opportunities.

Mr Walden says the programmes at the prison are extremely effective and motivating for those incarcerated with some ex-prisoners having now served their sentences and back at work.

Candidates for the five current carpentry courses at Ngawha Prison are referred to NorthTec by the Department of Corrections.

Mr Walden says despite being faced with limitations, the prisoners had progressed from building items like small decks and stairs to now constructing solid frames for homes under the ongoing relationship with Habitat for Humanity.

He says the latest project in Dargaville was the first time prisoners on the CIE programmes had worked on roof trusses as well as wall frames, calling it “another step forward for the partnered scheme and the realisation of a larger vision.”

The project, which took the prisoners around two weeks to build, received the help of local truss manufacturer Kerikeri Trusses, who oversaw it and provided the design specifications for free. Mr Walden said he wanted to thank them, along with colleague and fellow tutor Taina Savage and all of those involved with the project, including an International team of 12 from Habitat for Humanity who assisted the local Habitat team on site in Dargaville.

Mr Reyburn says the partnership between his humanitarian organisation and NorthTec, first forged in 2006 following the programme’s arrival, while costing it slightly more in freight costs transporting the finished materials from Ngawha Prison to site, was offset by the fact it enabled them to put up houses more quickly, while providing meaningful skills and “real work” for prisoners.

He said the partnership with NorthTec had worked out very satisfactorily as far as the Habitat organisation in Northland was concerned.

The land the Dargaville home was built on in Findlayson Park Avenue was part of a three-section block Habitat had purchased off the Kaipara District Council at a discounted price with all sections now having houses on them.

The first house on the section was constructed with the help of those on a workskills programme run by NorthTec in Dargaville towards the end of last year Mr Reyburn said.

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