Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis presented long service awards to staff and congratulated prisoners who had completed trades training at the Northland Region Corrections Facility (Ngawha) at a function on Friday.
"Education, employment and rehabilitation are crucial to reducing re-offending and our prison population, but it can't be done without the dedication of Corrections staff," Mr Davis said.
"Staff work in an environment that requires them to be adaptable and resilient, and the daily decisions they are required to make can have a profound impact on how successful we are in reducing a prisoner's likelihood of reoffending."
It had been his pleasure to present long service awards to nine Corrections officers and other staff, he said, adding that he was grateful for their ongoing work to help prisoners turn their lives around.
"It's a difficult job, but the fact that today's recipients have served seven or more years is a testament to their commitment to keeping our communities safe," he added.
Mr Davis also congratulated seven prisoners for completing the 17-week Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills Painting, run by Northtec.
"This qualification gives them a much better chance of finding work in the construction industry once they've served their sentence," he said.
"It's a big foot in the door. They can start out as a labourer, brush-hand or apprentice, and then go on to work as a painter with some further training and experience.
"The graduates should be proud of what they've achieved, and I have urged them to make sure they put their new skills to good use once they're outside the wire. That's the only way they can build a better life for themselves and their whanau.
"The safety of our community is paramount, and the best way to ensure this is by rehabilitating prisoners and removing barriers to them settling back in. This programme is just one of the ways we're making this happen," he added.
The prison and NorthTec have been working together for more than eight years, providing programmes including carpentry, forestry and horticulture.