"We were trying to find a problem in the community that we could help solve," Mr Van Onselen told The Project.
"Through research we discovered that 80 percent of inmates, when they leave they reoffend and go back into jail. So we thought we'd try and tackle that problem."
The students started a project called Bruthas Ltd, which involves creating and selling the rimu bread boards. The boards connect up like a puzzle to form a waka shape.
Prisoners took care of the design and creation of the bread boards, while the students took care of research and marketing.
"The waka shape shows that we're all in the same boat, we're all in this together," Mr Gardiner said.
"Once we got in there and talked to the prisoners, once we collaborated with them there was a real sense of togetherness."
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