Community Works - September 2008
From the General Manager's Office
In the financial year 2007-2008 the number of Community Work sentences was 35,577: an increase of 4,370 compared to the previous year.
The total annual throughput was higher as well; 55,415 in 2007-2008 against 48,970 in the previous financial year.
Community Work has increased at the same time as changes have been made to sentencing options in the community. Judges can now sentence offenders to Home Detention or two other new community sentences: Community Detention (Electronically Monitored Curfew) and Intensive Supervision. These sentences can also be combined with Community Work.
Last years’ statistics show that we must continue work with Maori offenders. Nearly half (45 per cent) of those receiving new community-based sentences were Maori. To work effectively with Maori offenders, we are forming strong partnerships with agencies, hapu, iwi and Maori community groups who work with sentenced offenders.
We continue to need to expand the opportunities and projects whereby offenders provide reparation to the community. We are continuing to work with the community and other agencies in doing this. You will find an example of this in this issue's story about ONTRACK, the Auckland Graffiti Free Project and the Waitakere City Council joining forces in a unique Community Work project.
If you know of other projects that may be eligible for Community Work assistance, please share your thoughts with us at your nearest CPPS centre.
Community Probation & Psychological Services
Tag-free, clean and beautiful
Cleaning graffiti at a rail corridor is a first for Community Work. Given the success in the busy three kilometre stretch through Henderson it most likely won’t be the last.
“It’s the most beautiful thing in the world,” says a resident in a letter to Corrections’ Waitakere Service Manager Karl Bethell. She explains: “Looking out onto a grey wall becomes wonderful when it is tag-free!”
Another email in Karl’s inbox reads: “When I saw your team working alongside the railway track on Sunday, I stepped onto my balcony and called out a big 'Thank You'!!! It is so good to be freed of that horrible view.”
The praise is for the 14 Community Work offenders cleaning up graffiti along a rail corridor in the Waitakere. This Henderson corridor has areas of high-volume graffiti vandalism, such as the Corban Hill retaining wall.
Waitakere City Council, ONTRACK, the Department of Corrections and the Auckland Region Graffiti Free (ARGF) Project have joined forces to organise this ground-breaking pilot programme. Funding for the trial comes from the ARGF, an organisation investigating long-term solutions for graffiti vandalism.
Because working in a rail corridor can be quite dangerous, Waitakere City Council and ONTRACK have developed a comprehensive safety plan and specific rail safety training for the workers and supervisors.
Getting rid of the graffiti begins with the basics. The Community Workers scrub the wall as clean as they can. “Then they cover the wall in a neutral grey layer. This water based recycled paint has been donated by Resene Paints,” explains Karl.
“The result is a clean and fresh wall. Grey could seem boring to some people but not to those exposed to the shouting colours of graffiti.
“The offenders also use weed eaters to clear the area about two metres off the track. We plant natives back, including vines to eventually cover the walls and make tagging impossible. The council helps us by providing free rubbish removal and landscaping expertise.”
ARGF co-ordinator Stewart Andrews says: “If successful, the trial could well become the blueprint for developing other community programmes.”
ONTRACK spokeswoman Jenni Austin says her organisation is pleased to be involved in this initiative: “ONTRACK is often criticised for allowing graffiti to build up in the rail corridor. But its presence is a result of trespassing. We don’t like the presence of graffiti any more than others. So we jumped at the opportunity to be involved in a programme like this. It should provide a win-win for everybody involved.”
Turning Nelson into Mountain Bike City
New mountain bike tracks for the whole family are just what Nelson needs. So community workers are creating a meandering network of tracks in the bush - ready for summer.
The Nelson Mountain Bike Club and the Nelson City Council mooted this idea with Community Probation & Psychological Services regional office in Nelson. “We try to find projects that are worthwhile. And the making of these tracks just benefits everyone,” says Martin Cleland, Nelson’s Environmental Reserves Supervisor.
Chris Mildon of the Nelson Mountain Bike Club: “I scope and set the proposed track by working through the bush with a machete and marking tape. The community workers follow this marking, cleaning out the scrub and forming the benched trails as they go. A good day will see between 250 and 400 metres of trail completed.
“We’ve created six kilometres of undulating track already. The offenders are really enthusiastic about the project and proud of their work. Often they will try the tracks out for themselves in their spare time, even bring their kids along in the weekends.”
The whole range
“Weekly we have four crews of ten offenders working on the tracks,” says Nelson Senior Community Work Supervisor Jeff Holden.
“We started in the Upper Tantragee area. It’s very hard work but the offenders get real satisfaction from their work because they can see the results.
“And people are using the tracks already. This circuit loops around New Zealand’s first railway track and for that reason will attract a lot of tourists as well.”
Martin agrees. “Nelson is becoming one of the major mountain bike areas in New Zealand. We already had the very low level 'nana' tracks and the very technical alpine ones. The community workers are now creating an intermediate network of tracks. The council would never have been able to afford this without their help. And it’s just great to see the tracks already being used!”
This network of tracks will probably be finished in September: And then there’s another one waiting on the other side of the mountain called the Barnicoat MTB Project. The Barnicoat trail network is intended to cater for riders with a level between intermediate and more experienced. The trail will be constructed in a natural bush valley in some pretty difficult terrain.
This will also be the largest MTB specific project the Nelson City Council has undertaken in partnership with the Nelson MTB Club, and will be a real asset to the region. That will probably keep the community workers busy until the end of the year.
“The offenders have made a big difference to the Nelson community. And the tourists will also be flocking in to use the tracks,” Martin expects.
Summer is looking good for Nelson!
Great results for Riverslea Community Trust
Providing training and opportunities for offenders on Community Work is a major focus of the Riverslea Community Trust. Founder Roberta Karangaroa believes that keeping track of offenders is the key to its success.
The Trust was founded about eight years ago. The last three years’ records show 233 of 251 community workers were still offence-free in March. Another key factor behind these numbers according to Roberta is her solid working relationship with probation officers in both Hastings and Napier.
If Community Work is completed for an agency, such as Riverslea Trust, probation officers will check if offenders complete their hours and work to the required standard. Roberta: “Working collectively with CPPS staff and offenders has seen great results for our communities!”
“I really think that keeping track of people is the key,” says Roberta. “For example, I am supporting this 17 year-old boy who ended up in the court system for stealing food and clothing. He did this because he was living on the streets. But now he not only has a stable home and income, he is also doing a mechanical and a literacy course. I will continue to support him until I see that he is OK but I am certain he will be.
“In general, two out of five offences are committed due to personal circumstances and the need to cope with daily survival. So I believe that it is essential to deal with the reasons behind the crime. Most people will stay crime free if they have dealt with those reasons. There is always a story that has led to the black hole in their lives. If you listen to that story, you can help offenders solve their problems.”
Roberta wears many hats and has a huge network: “Everyone in Hastings is very supportive. We are not government funded but rely on our many activities for income such as selling walnuts. We also make garden boxes and grow our own vegetables to support the budget of the trust. The trust has the strong support of our many volunteers.”
The Trust is always on the lookout for new community projects. These can range from the cleaning of graffiti to tree felling and cutting up the wood for the elderly. The community work supports parks, schools and local marae.
“Our recent project supports a school traffic safety programme,” says Roberta. “The solution was extending the school car park so the children could be dropped off and picked up safely. To achieve this the dental clinic had to be moved and this is where the community workers came in.
“We are open to any request that comes into our office. I also do a lot of networking to find out what is required. It’s about bringing the whole community whanau together!”
The power of horses
Horse riding not only has therapeutic powers for the disabled but also for the seven offenders who are helping out at the Meeanee Stable Yard.
“The offenders have saved us a lot of money since they started in May,” says Riding For the Disabled Coordinator Susan Fraser. “One young man assisted in the renovation of the hall and saved us $4,000. Another community worker did some plumbing in the stalls. That repair work would have cost us at least $2,000. The whole place just looks fantastic but hasn’t cost us anything.”
Besides helping out with mending and building activities, the offenders sometimes lead the horses round the track when there are not enough volunteers.
The horse riding programme in Napier is aimed at people with all kinds of disabilities. “It ranges from a child who can’t do sports because of flat feet to people with severe autism,” Susan says. “Horse riding helps with balance, coordination and social skills. Horses also calm people right down. We have little kids coming in screaming and on top of the horse they become totally relaxed.”
According to Susan the offenders also share in the therapeutic benefits from the programme. She says: “You should see the smile on the faces of some really tough looking offenders as soon as the Fairhaven Special School kids arrive. I also see that the horses themselves have a calming effect on the community workers.”
A similar programme in Hastings called the 'Leg Up Trust’ has also benefited from Community Work where offenders provide clean and safe facilities for youth at risk.
Green thumbs brighten up house sections
In Napier offenders subject to Community Work sentences are making over the gardens of several state houses.
Sometimes people living in state homes can find it hard to maintain their sections. In particular the disabled, mentally ill and elderly can find it a challenge to get outside and do the garden. Housing New Zealand and CPPS are tackling this problem together for state house tenants in need.
The community workers help with digging flower and vegetable gardens, growing plants, clearing and recycling rubbish, making trips to the rubbish tip, composting and building worm farms.
Housing New Zealand Tenancy Manager in Napier Marian Smith says she is thrilled with the hard work the offenders have put in: “The transformations to the sections have been unbelievable. They have really inspired the tenants to look after and maintain their gardens. By helping others in need these offenders take pride in their work and get a real sense of satisfaction out of giving something back to the community.”
CPPS Area Manager George Henderson says this project demonstrates the great relationship between the two government departments: “It is satisfying to see the great results these offenders are achieving while paying reparation for their crimes.”
The wide success of this programme has already spread; there are plans to develop a similar programme within the Hastings area.
Community work saves money for Napier people
Not only does the new CPPS recycling project in Napier help to protect the environment, it also saves the community money!
The recycling project is located at the Redcliffe Transfer Station where the community workers greet and help people unload their rubbish. Almost everyone appreciates the offer for help.
“The older people in our community are just over the moon and really enjoy the service,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Stuart McKenzie.
The community offenders sort through the drop-offs and look to recycle paper, wood, plastic, glass and metal. “The amount collected is quite impressive,” says Stuart. “Every day we recover an average of 650kg of metal. The council sells the metal to help cover costs at the Transfer Station. A further 400kg of wood is collected everyday; this is used to help operate the Pan Pac Mill at Whirinaki. On average another 120kg of paper is collected daily for recycling and 220kg of glass is separated by colour and recycled by AllBrite Industries.”
Another 10 to 60kg of plastic is collected every day which is also recycled. In the green-waste area community workers help the public unload their green waste which is also sent off site for energy recovery.
Environmental Services Engineer Ricki Freemantle says the Council is more than happy with the results: “We love the fact that the community is benefiting from this new service at the Transfer Station. Recycling saves money, energy and waste and helps to extend the life of the landfill and that is good news for all Hawke’s Bay residents!”