A $15.3 million trial to try to boost the job prospects of prisoners and reduce reoffending has kicked off in seven prisons.
The three-year funding package is part of the Government's attempt to address the 80 per cent unemployment rate among ex-prisoners for up to a year after they are released.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said Work and Income case managers and other professionals will work with up to 200 prisoners at a time, from six weeks before they leave prison and up to a year after they were released.
It was aimed at helping them find and remain in employment to help reduce reoffending.
"Released prisoners have been identified as one of the Ministry of Social Development's most complex and challenging groups," Tolley said.
"Eighty per cent are still on a benefit 12 months after release, and many stay on a benefit long-term, meaning over their lifetime they have a $30,000 higher benefit liability on average than the general population."
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Corrections Minister Judith Collins said having a job could stop people committing crime.
"The intention of this programme is to ensure people are ready for work and have skill sets to meet employer and labour market needs for sustainable employment."
The Corrections Department already has agreements with 52 employers to give jobs to up to 423 ex-prisoners each year.
In August, a research paper by Stephen Cunningham, the Department of Corrections director of offender employment and re-integration, cited a study showing a 20 per cent reduction in reoffending by non-violent offenders who had jobs compared to those who did not.
The same paper noted that the sooner an ex-prisoner got a job, the less likely they were to return to crime.
Under the trial, prisoners would get help to access education and training, financial support, health services, and social and housing support.
The trial will start this week in Northland, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Rimutaka, Arohata, Auckland Men's and Auckland Women's prisons.
Contractors will deliver a similar service from November for Rolleston, Christchurch Men's and Christchurch Women's prisons.