Background

On Thursday 30 June 2016, the Chief Executive was made aware that an approved Kaiwhakamana who provides voluntary services to Whanganui Prison is an active gang member. While the Kaiwhakamana concerned had declared his gang affiliations, the Department was unaware that he was still an active patched member of the Black Power gang. 

The Department accepts that someone who has clearly distanced themselves from former gang involvement can provide appropriate support for prisoners to also desist from gangs and focus on living a crime-free lifestyle. However, the Department has concerns about a person who provides specialist volunteer services to prisoners and who also has active gang membership and the risks this might present. Gang membership and/or affiliation is recognised as a challenge to rehabilitation and it is acknowledged that gang members are disproportionately perpetrators of violence both inside and outside of prisons.

Volunteers and others who provide services into prison are required to disclose any conflicts of interest and undergo a Ministry of Justice criminal history check as part of their application. The approval process for standard volunteers is made at a local Prison level. The approval process for Kaiwhakamana and some other specialist volunteer categories is made at a national level.

It is appropriate the Department now review its base of existing registered volunteers as well as others who provide services in prisons to identify whether there are other people who hold gang membership that may need to be reviewed, even if they had previously disclosed a level of gang affiliation.

Terms of Reference for the Review

The National Commissioner will undertake a review of all existing volunteers and others to establish whether any are active gang members. The Review will also liaise with the National Gang Intelligence Centre as part of this process. 

The Review will consider the current approval processes that require volunteers to declare conflicts of interests, specifically about gang membership, and make any recommendations for changes.

The Review will report back on initial findings to the Chief Executive by 16 September 2016.

Ray Smith
Chief Executive
Department of Corrections

Download the Terms of Reference here: Terms of Reference for the review of gang connections of approved volunteers and others providing services into prisons (PDF 777KB)