Northland prison artists auction their work

Northland prison artists auction their work

Prisoners who have picked up the paintbrush behind bars at Northland's Ngawha Prison say it has changed their lives.

It has given them a sense of purpose, but also an opportunity to give back to their local community.

Inmates from Ngawha Prison in Northland have taken part in a rehabilitation programme in which they learn about and work on art for six hours a day.

With all that time to focus, they're soon working on major projects – Maori carvings, prints and paintings.

"It gives you time out, time to think. While you're carving you're not in prison for the day," says one inmate.

We can't identify them, but we can tell you these inmates are serving hefty sentences.

"There's a lot of talent in prison, some awesome painters. A lot of guys don't even know they've got talent until they get to a place like this."

For others art has opened doors to learning for the first time.

"I came in no education, no reading or writing but I ended up getting my NCEA, so there's a hope."

One inmate taught himself how to paint at the prison library. He now mentors beginner artists.

"If people give me paint, I'll just paint the heck out of my sentence because I paint every day; I paint prolifically."

Most have lost count of the number of artworks they've donated to charity, and some are getting recognised for their work.

The inmates don't pocket any of the money themselves. Every cent goes to charity.

But they do get to keep some amazing new skills, which will be useful once they're released.

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