Community Works - June 2012
From the General Manager
Welcome to our June issue of Community Works. I’m delighted to report that our team of Community Probation Services staff have just completed implementing a major redesign of our frontline practice. Staff can work with offenders more effectively and focus on reducing the likelihood of reoffending and minimising the risk of harm presented by offenders alongside ensuring sentence integrity is upheld.
Our ‘Integrated Practice Framework’ is now in place,with over 2,400 probation staff ensuring bottom line mandatory standards are met for all offenders. Above and beyond that however, staff are enabled to exercise their professional judgement and are working more closely with medium and high risk offenders underthe guidance of a supported decision framework.
There are around 36,000 offenders in the community at any given time.
This change in focus has been embraced by our frontline staff. Prescriptive and procedure-bound operations are a thing of the past, with staff now supported and guided in their professional judgement to make decisions for the individuals concerned.
Our staff now have the tools to identify and assess an offender’s overall risk – both of re-offending and of causing harm to others. The supported-decision framework means they can weigh up information and then decide what action to take where needed. Teams are encouraged and expected to work together more – sharing information, advice, progress, and the decisions, too.
On top of this change, we are also in the process of undergoing considerable change as an organisation. While frontline staff are not affected, the intention is to build a more cohesive and unified team across the whole organisation.
Please do let us know if you think we may be able to help your community by way of worthwhile projects.The details of your local Community Probation Services site are in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (within the blue Government Department pages).
Community Probation Services
Rediscovered cemetery pleases descendants
When Whangaparoa resident Sandra Baker went searching for the graves of her ancestors near the small settlement of Taheke in Northland, she was shocked to find the cemetery overgrown with scrub and bracken, and the tombstones barely visible. “It’s terrible when graves are treated with indifference and left to the weeds,” she says.
Somehow the cemetery was overlooked as a council responsibility and reverted to wilderness.
Sandra teamed up with two descendants of the Punakitere settlers and the trio (who became the project sponsors) worked for a couple of years to obtain council interest and ownership to get the graveyard cleared.
After this period of very limited progress, Sandra approached Community Probation Services for help.
Technical difficulties were endless for this project, however. The remote farmland surrounding the cemetery was privately owned, and there was difficulty getting hold of the farmer. There was no vehicle access across the farm and along 120 metres of muddy track up a steep hill, and over a couple of fences to the cemetery. Access permission was required (and took some time); there were no toilets, no cellphone coverage; and very heavy rain also complicated matters.
Finally, however, the work began, albeit sporadically, given the challenges. Approximately 20 offenders spent nine days onsite, marching up the hill with their equipment, to get the site under control.
Fellow sponsor George Goodhew remembers the graveyard from his youth. “My father was the custodian there,” he says. “Thankfully, the community work offenders have done a great job.”
Upon completion of the project, the trio had a meeting with the Far North District Council to discuss the future upkeep of the graveyard. Sandra is relieved to confirm that the council has undertaken to maintain the cemetery to a minimum standard every six months. “They gave an assurance the cemetery would never revert back to the condition in which I found it,” she says.
Bike track draws crowd
Having been knocked off the road on two separate occasions during training, the (now ex) technical director of Triathlon NZ made the call to take cyclists off Whitianga’s dangerous roads.
That was ten years ago. Sponsor Bruce Chambers went to the Thames Coromandel District Council, which recommended calling a public meeting to determine support. The team opened their first trails eight months later on land leased from the Council.
Since then, Bruce and supporters have been actively building trails and involved in fundraising to develop 10 kilometres of mountain biking trail, a BMX track, a pump track (requiring different skill to mountain biking and BMX-ing), and a fun zone. Walking tracks also lie parallel with some of the cycle trails.
Establishing the trails, part of which were previously an old blackberry paddock, meant using the services of community work offenders for a day a week to dig the track, cut the bush and shape the trails. More recently, however, offenders are on site for a day a fortnight undertaking general maintenance, tree planting, and surfacing the trails with shell.
Bruce says he’s delighted with what they’ve achieved. During summer over 1,000 people a month, both local and visitors from New Zealand and overseas use the facilities. “It’s been very positive for the local community as there’s relatively little sport to do in our area.” Bruce sees that many of the crew have taken a personal interest in the park and have come back on occasions to complete a job not finished by the work party.
In a letter of thanks, Bruce says, “without Corrections’ help, the Whitianga Bike Park would not exist. For 10 years your teams have helped bring it to the stage where riders and supporters have a great time and the track is getting well known in mountain biking circles in New Zealand.”
Senior community work supervisor Bill Stevens says some of the offenders are getting to know the track quite well in their work; they are then taking their children there to have a go as a family. Bill says most of the workers are keen to show up for their work and complete their sentence, but some appear to prefer sleeping in and ignoring their call for duty! “I’ve been known to knock on offenders’ front doors to get the men up and reporting for the day!”
Agencies receptive to changes
Dunedin CPS staff have been proactive with the agencies they work with, notifying them of the new Integrated Practice Framework* and clarifying expectations for both parties.
In December, an evening meeting was held to tell agencies about the proposals within the framework, and they were receptive and positive about the changes ahead. They appreciated the opportunity to raise and discuss issues they were facing.
In mid-April a luncheon was held to notify the agencies that the changes that some of them had heard about are now in place and to answer any questions or issues they had. Ten large agencies were represented; with attendees eager to hear detail about the changes and what the framework will mean for them. The agencies also very much appreciated discussing the issues they all have in common.
The agencies are clear that they are required to submit timesheets within a week of the work being carried out, and that offenders can’t just show up to work, without a formalised agreement in place.
At the luncheon one agency provider,TeHouOra suggested they may have the capacity to undertake a ‘parenting and Maori culture’ course, within the basic work and living skills component of the community work sentence. While this arrangement hasn’t yet been confirmed, it demonstrates the value of gathering to discuss wider points of interest.
One issue raised in December was offenders reporting without taking due care and attention to personal hygiene factors. This was a significant issue for agencies working in close contact with our people.
At the recent luncheon, the CPS team was able to respond to these concerns, having built a ‘personal hygiene’ section in to their induction material. Agencies reported to have already noticed a significant improvement in this respect.
Agencies were forthcoming in their praise for the new framework and are highly positive about the changes. They are also appreciating the closer liaison and support they’re now receiving from CPS staff.
*See the From the General Manager column on the inside cover for further information about the Integrated Practice Framework.
Some of the agencies working in partnership with Dunedin CPS staff.
People on community work sentences are making a significant difference in their local area and the stories are inspiring and positive to report on.
A life changer!
What’s more positive, however, is the impact this work has on an individual’s life and the transformation to a crime-free lifestyle.
Here’s “Elizabeth’s’ story, first hand. She had been sentenced to 125 hours’ community work for burglary and receiving stolen property. She is 28 years old.
“I hardly ever socialised and isolated myself from the world. I had no confidence or self esteem. I dwelled on the negative times in my life. I had no goals.
“I fell into a bit of trouble and was referred to the agency Saint Vincent de Paul to do some community work. When I first started I was so nervous but I said to myself, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity to try and change my ways’. I was ready for change. On my first day the atmosphere and the people who worked there were so friendly and supportive. They welcomed me with open arms and have been awesome influences on my life. Their warm smiles and kind words made a world of difference to me.
“I also had the opportunity to serve the less fortunate. It really opened my eyes to how grateful I truly am for everything that I have. While I have been with St Vincent de Paul I have made huge changes in my life. I have gained confidence and now have the will to work on my self-esteem, whereas before I had no chance. A St Vincent de Paul staff member encouraged me to go for runs in the mornings. It has done wonders for me mentally and I am surprised at my progress, as I now have enough confidence to pursue my goals which are to go to University to gain qualifications and to get a full-time job to support my family. I am now raising my children with a sound and peaceful mind.
“I have enjoyed my time at St Vincent de Paul and give many thanks to the staff who have helped me on my journey. I will never forget them and wish them all the best.”
Having completed her sentence, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society is now funding Elizabeth to attend the ‘Outward Bound’ programme to further unlock her potential.