Episode 38 - Freedom Farm
On the next episode, screening 5 November 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Less than half an hour from central Christchurch there’s a diverse farm, with beef cattle, sheep, dairying, cropping and one of the country’s largest piggeries.
But all the work on the land is done by prisoners.
The 800 hectare farm surrounds Christchurch Men’s Prison, and its main purpose is to help rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for employment.
Simon, who is in prison on assault charges and had never worked on a farm before coming here, loves working with the dairy cows and calves.
‘You can stress out as much as you like, but they’re not going to move. The more you calm down, the easier they are to work with,’ he says. ‘That’s what the animals have taught me.’
‘Now I can’t wait to get up every day, get out here with them and see how they’re doing.’
Simon Rabbidge, the Corrections instructor who runs the dairying, says prisoner Simon is a real success story.
‘He’s a great example of how someone can change their attitude and behaviour and also learn new skills.’
Bruce Tomlinson, who manages the sheep and beef part of the farm, says it’s the most rewarding job he’s ever had.
‘It’s an incredibly challenging job,’ he says. ‘We see and experience every human emotion every day. That’s what makes it so special. I absolutely love it.’
All prisoners who work on the farm are paid a small incentive allowance. That money goes into their trust accounts and they can use it to buy things like snack food and phone cards.
The prisoners can gain qualifications while they work, and they also get help to get jobs on their release.
Mike, who’s worked on the piggery for 15 months, is working his way through his Level 2 Pork Production Certificate.
‘I go before the parole board in February, and I’m hopeful that someone will give me opportunity,’ he says. ‘I just need one chance to prove myself and I’ll be away laughing.’
For farm instructors like Bruce Tomlinson, there’s a huge sense of pride seeing the progress of these young men.
‘You get to see their self-esteem grow, you see them become better, more complete people, as they realise there really is something out there for them.’
For more about The Department of Corrections, visit:www.corrections.govt.nz
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