Four Corrections staff who started their corrections officer training together 40 years ago, recommend a career with Corrections.

Left to right: Scott Portland, Walker Manaena, Phil Lister and Andy Fitzharris take a trip down memory lane.

The four have very diverse roles at Corrections in 2014:

  • Scott Portland is a Senior Corrections Officer at Rimutaka Prison and the Wellington Courts Coordinator for Rimutaka Prison. He manages staff who supervise prisoners and accused persons at the Courts. He is also responsible for the safety and security of prisoners to, from and in Court.
  • Walker Manaena is a Principal Custodial Advisor in the lower north region. He advises prisons and National Office staff on custodial matters and in particular, on security matters to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners.
  • Phil Lister is the National Prisoner Movements Coordinator. A big part of his job is ensuring the national prison capacity is used to best effect. Together with a small team he makes sure new prisoners received from Court have a place in prison and that these prisons have sufficient offender programmes for them.
  • Andy Fitzharris is Chief Inspector. Inspectors operate under the Corrections Act 2004, the Corrections Regulations 2005 and the mandate of the Chief Executive. This mandate means inspectors check and report on the fair, safe, secure and humane treatment of prisoners and people detained within the Corrections system.

Scott, Walker, Phil and Andy started at Corrections in 1974 in the same training group. There must have been something special about their group because three other staff members who took part in it also still work for Corrections.

After the training they were placed in different prisons around the country. Walker’s job for the first six months was leading a group of prisoners to work in the bush, on his own. He had to make every decision without backup but he loved it. ”I have always felt I made a real difference, with each prisoner who left and didn’t come back. I felt that I had achieved something. It was all about team work and that’s still the same.”

“What’s different is that Corrections has become a lot more diverse now,” says Andy. “Providing more options to progress your career and a real focus on working as one team with frontline roles across prison and probation. I am based at National Office in Wellington that houses all kinds of staff roles that support our goal of reducing re-offending by25% by 2017.”

“And it will make a big difference now case managers screen prisoners for their rehabilitation needs at the beginning of their sentence,” says Phil. “It means we can start supporting them to turn their lives around right from the start.”

Andy adds: “It’s great that they are also tested on reading and writing now. That’s the very start of being able to take part in rehabilitation programmes. I can remember a long time ago working at prison and this one guy just kept coming back because of violent offences. By sheer chance I found out that this person couldn’t read or write. It then dawned on me that his aggression always happened in places where he needed to fill in a form or write something down, say in a bank. As soon as he had to fill in something, he went mad out of pure frustration. So that was quite easily fixed but it’s good that we can deal with this a lot sooner nowadays.”

Scott adds that corrections officers now also have more tools to support them in their work: “I would certainly recommend Corrections as a good place to have a career. I go to work with a smile on my face nearly every day. And I am proud to be playing a part in reducing re-offending. It’s much better to have people leave the prison with skills than have them be sucked into a life of crime again.”

Building of the corrections training in 1974.