Prisoner and employer Marie from Wildness Chocolate packing chocolatePrisoners are gaining work experience through employment with local organic chocolate company, Wildness Chocolate.

Wildness Chocolate has been partnering with Corrections for the past year, employing prisoners at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons to help make packaging for the local brand. Wildness Chocolate owner Marie Monmont has currently employed a prisoner at Rimutaka Prison. Once a week she sits and works alongside them to package her chocolate as part of the Release to Work (RtW) scheme.

The RtW scheme helps prisoners who are eligible and suitable to gain employable skills, reintegrate into society and secure a job upon their release. They are paid a wage which is put towards living costs including board and weekly expenses.

Having sustainable work after being released is one of the key motivators for an offender to turn their life around and reduce the likelihood they will reoffend. Many prisoners have limited work experience and less than half of the prison population were in paid employment before coming into prison.

According to Aleigh Paramore, Release to Work Case Manager, the prisoners love working with Marie.

“A lot of the men doing this particular work are extremely difficult to find job placements for. Working with Marie has given them the opportunity to get work experience and prove to themselves they can do it,” says Aleigh. “It’s really helped their work ethic and they really value having some believe in them.”

Marie is grateful for the work that the prisoners do as well.

“One of the favourite parts of my work is packaging the chocolate with the men and women working with me in prison,” says Marie. “My business is all about being sustainable – being good for the environment and good for people.”

“I wanted to help those less fortunate than me. It’s hard for these men and women to find employment but they are still part of our society and I wanted to give them a chance.”

Joey* has just started working with Marie at Rimutaka Prison. He is looking forward to learning new skills in a different industry, having previously done some construction work on the inside.

“Unemployment and social skills can be some of the biggest challenges on the outside,” says Joey. “I’m enjoying this job because I can fill in my time with really interesting and constructive work.”

“We really appreciate that Marie has taken a chance on these men and women and the support that she’s given them,” says Aleigh Paramore. “And of course it doesn’t hurt that the chocolate is absolutely divine.”

*Names have been changed