NSW prison program bears fruit

Dominica Sanda

Inmates at a southern NSW correctional centre have been working on their horticulture skills by picking nearly 1.8 million apples in just four months as part of a skills program.

There are 22,000 apple trees planted at Mannus Correctional Centre near Tumbarumba producing Granny Smith, Gala and Braeburn apples.

During the March to June harvest season 24 inmates picked nearly 1.8 million apples under the guidance of Corrective Services NSW staff, the justice department said in a statement on Friday.

Inmates participating in the orchard program work eight-hour shifts picking about 8000 apples a day during harvest time. The apples are then transported to the nearby Batlow Cooperative for processing, Corrective Services NSW operations manager Anthony Shore says.

"The inmates learn tractor operations, logistics and warehousing, pruning, irrigation, fertilising and fruit handling with the possibility of attaining trade certificates in horticulture and chemical certification," Mr Shore said in a statement on Friday.

"They also gain self-confidence to help prepare them for reintegration into the community."

Once at the Batlow Cooperative, the apples are stored for distribution throughout the year and sold commercially, sent to prisons for inmate consumption and others sent for juicing.