Every week hundreds of people voluntarily go into prison because they want to make a difference with offenders.
National Volunteer Week (21-27 June) celebrates the invaluable knowledge, skill and time contribution made by volunteers around New Zealand.
Corrections is marking National Volunteer Week by highlighting the contribution of 10 of our many volunteers. Volunteers support Corrections’ goal of reducing re-offending by helping offenders meet their rehabilitative needs and transition back into society.
“Prison volunteers come in to prison because they want to make a difference,” says Barbara Jennings, National Advisor Volunteers. “They represent a cross section of society and do a range of activities. It’s our job to make them feel welcome and also to understand the realities of the prison environment.”
An important part of this is increasing literacy and numeracy levels of prisoners so they can take part in employment training and gain qualifications.
Three literacy tutors are among 10 volunteers working in prisons who are being acknowledged by Corrections for National Volunteer Week.
Caroline Keddie is a former teacher aide of speech, reading and writing. She has volunteered at Spring Hill Corrections Facility for the last two years. She teaches literacy to prisoners one-on-one, which works well for prisoners who aren’t ready to learn in a classroom environment.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and I do believe in people being given a second chance in life,” says Caroline. “Some of the people [in prison] have never been given a first chance, let alone a second one.
Volunteering at the prison is “one of the most rewarding jobs,” she says. “The reward is in the job we do, the results we see. It makes it all worthwhile to see them [prisoners] improve and want to get on with their lives.”
Another literacy tutor, Di Whiteacre, works with some of Corrections’ most challenging prisoners, including maximum security prisoners at Auckland Prison. Di works with four prisoners at a time, one on one, and some of her sessions are held through a grill due to the prisoners’ security classifications.
Tutor Margaret Morgan volunteers at Rimutaka Prison and has helped prisoners gain NCEA maths qualifications. She helped one prisoner write an illustrated story for children.
Another volunteer, David Slack, works for Gamblers Anonymous at Spring Hill Corrections Facility. Drawing on his own experience, David gives the prisoners hope that they can overcome their gambling addictions.
“Most people have no self worth when involved in gambling,” says David. “I’ve seen amazing changes in the men from when they first started. Volunteering is very fulfilling. It’s exciting to see changes in people’s lives. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to give hope to people who have no hope.”
Patrick Nutira, Daphne O’Connell and Margaret Jones are three Kaumatua who have volunteered at Christchurch Men’s Prison’s Matapuna Special Treatment Unit for many years. The trio have been tireless in their dedication to supporting the kaupapa of Matapuna. Their involvement ensures that the unit works within a Te Ao Maori framework.
Maryanne Villa, Karen Quin and Norah Bacon volunteer for PARS Palmerston North and run a knitting group for up to 10 men at Manawatu Prison. They recently helped the prisoners make 150 poppies for the National Army Museum’s poppy appeal.