Programme Facilitator Jo Cahill facilitates a programme at Invercargill PrisonA group of 35 prisoners in Invercargill have completed the Prison’s new condensed Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) programmes, aiming to help them remain drug free on release.

Addressing alcohol and drug dependencies is a priority for Corrections, with two-thirds of prisoners known to have substance abuse problems and more than 50 percent of crime committed by people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

“In prison, offenders are removed from the situations, stresses, temptations and associates that may drive their drug and alcohol abuse,” according to Invercargill Prison Director Stu Davie.

“For many offenders with a history of addictions, this is an ideal time to reflect on how they got to where they are, and to choose to take control of their lives.”

In the past many prisoners who could benefit from these programmes missed out, as the traditional more intensive programmes ran for three or six month attendance.

”Many offenders in our prisons return for short periods and do not have time in their sentences to undertake longer programmes or training. This means they are being released without us having a chance to provide a programme which could help them break their cycle of offending,” says Stu.

By reducing the length of some of their key education and motivational programmes, Corrections is able to make these more accessible to those in prison for a brief period of time and get more offenders through the programmes.

These brief and intermediate length AOD programmes run for four two-hour sessions over one or two weeks respectively.

Craig Thurlow, Corrections’ Principal Facilitator for Programme Delivery in the South Island, says through the brief and intermediate AOD programmes, the attendees develop a plan to help them to break their addictions or the motivation and confidence to access rehabilitation support in the future.

The shorter running AOD Programmes are part of the Department’s drive to nearly double the number of offenders receiving intervention programmes while in prison.

Offenders on the programmes are given education on the effects of drugs and alcohol as well as the tools to help them work through their addictions. Programme facilitators help the men to identify, manage and avoid the events and behaviours that led to their crime; encouraging them to seek further support in the community to maintain the change.

“We know that it is hard for people to change long standing behaviours and beliefs, and particularly addictions,” says Craig.

“These programmes motivate offenders to look at their drug and alcohol use and identify the negative and detrimental effects on their lives, their families and others in the community.”

The programmes are proving popular with the prison reporting increased interest as word of the new programmes spread. The prison has had 48 offenders in the programmes and a further 63 have registered their interest and been identified as prospects for the programmes.

Nick* is a recent graduate of the programme and says he has been an alcohol and drug user since childhood and as long as he can remember. This use lead him to committing violent offences and ultimately to prison.

As a result of the AOD programme, John has decided to set new goals and reassess his values.

“I am now able to ask for help where I was unable to, or wouldn’t, do so before,” he says.

One of the things he says he will do differently upon his release is to identify good support people within his support network, and ensure he utilises that support when he needs it.
“Prison removes people’s freedom and takes them away from the community, their whanau and friends. This is the punishment for their crime,” says Stu. “Nearly everyone in prison will return to the community, so we need to use this time to make a change.”

“It makes sense to use this as an opportunity to provide programmes and address some of the antisocial behaviours behind their offending and give them the tools to live a crime free life on release.”

“This has to be the best strategy for offenders, their families and the community as a whole.”