From the General Manager's Office
Kia ora koutou.
Welcome to this Spring issue of Community Works. Corrections has undergone considerable transition over the last couple of months. I’ve been appointed General Manager of Corrections Services, and I’m pleased to bring you this publication.
This year we expect to manage 41,000 new community work sentences – resulting in at least 3.5 million hours of offender labour going into our communities nationwide.
You’ll know that community work is a reparative sentence designed to benefit the wider community and we are committed to upholding the integrity of that purpose. In recent months we’ve been working hard to increase community work report-in rates to ensure offenders serve their time. In many cases, that’s required us to track down and re-engage offenders who, for one reason or another, have stopped reporting as required. Surprisingly, many offenders are relieved to get back on course, complete their sentence and move on.
Raising our report-in rates and working with offenders to complete their hours as quickly as possible means we need to offer people on community work as many opportunities as possible to complete their sentences successfully. This might mean that offenders complete a range of work tasks and work on a number of days each week. The support of our community work sponsors and agencies has been making this a reality.
Around the country our community work teams are seeking extra agencies to join us in providing meaningful work placements. As an approved agency partner, groups or organisations will benefit from having ongoing, free support from community work and help make a real difference to those offenders they take on. We are keen to hear from anyone wanting to work with us.
We are also expanding our use of basic work and living skills (BWLS) training. This allows offenders to spend up to 20 percent of their hours in training. For example, the Waitemata area runs a successful course that helps offenders with job-seeking and CV preparation. We’ll be looking for more BWLS providers around the country so if your group is interested please contact your local community work team. You’ll find contact numbers in the blue pages of your phone book, under C for Corrections.
Motu Trails project opens new doors
Prime Minister John Key’s cycle trails project provides 120 kilometres of track for mountain-biking enthusiasts in Opotiki and throughout New Zealand.
The Bay of Plenty ‘Motu Trails’ officially opened on 20 May, with over 100 guests present to bless the seventh trail to open as part of this initiative. The trail begins in Opotiki and meanders along a spectacular stretch of coast.
Up to 12 offenders were involved in the project which lasted nearly 18 months. Track benching and scrub-cutting took place to get the cycleway surface up to the required standard, all undertaken with picks and shovels. Retaining walls were also built as part of the construction phase, with tool maintenance carried out during poor weather.
Due to the remote location of the trail, the workers camped out with a very experienced Department of Conservation supervisor, with tents and food also provided by Conservation. Many of the men returned to the site to voluntarily undertake more work following completion of their sentences, having enjoyed the project so much. First Aid certificate training, power barrow operating and chainsaw ticketing training were all provided and paid for by Conservation. The men were enthusiastic about the work and seized the opportunity to participate and broaden their skill base.
Department of Conservation Area Manager Andy Bassett says iwi were involved one hundred percent of the way with Opotiki and Gisborne District Councils. “It was a win-win situation: the community work offenders carried out outstanding work helping to create the trails, and at the same time paying their dues to the community,” says Andy. He also says that the relationship Conservation has with Corrections’ staff made a huge difference.
Senior Community Work Supervisor Kahu Abbot was delighted with how well the project went. To cap it off, the Department of Conservation offered employment to four of the men following completion of the project. Having received this news, one of the men went to Kahu and said ‘Do you mind if I give you a hug please? Thank you for believing in me!’
|“I tell the offenders ‘when you walk out of here at the end of your sentence, I want you to walk with your head held high, having achieved something truly meaningful for your community’.” Senior Community Work Supervisor Kahu Abbot.|
Gorge receives new lease of life
Oamaru and Dunedin community work offenders are currently joining forces in a project on behalf of Te Runanga o Moeraki: a huge replanting project in the Trotters Gorge.
Over time, it is anticipated that around 25,000 tiny trees will be planted in the Gorge to rejuvenate the forest and river and to improve the waterway. So far around 5,000 seedlings have been introduced.
Te Runanga o Moeraki applied to the NgaiTahu fund, and received funding to spend on seedlings. The Department of Conservation provided advice on the species to plant, based on what was already at the site. Vast numbers of kowhai, tikouka, totara and many other different species have been planted every Saturday since March 2012.
While this is an important project for the rejuvenation of native trees, it is also a very meaningful project for the offenders.
Project sponsor and Chairperson of Te Runanga o Moeraki Patrick Tipa takes the time to talk to the offenders about the history of the forest and the importance of new growth in terms of what it will mean in the future for the community and for our children. As a result, the workers are buying into the project, and are enthusiastic about being there. Some have even said they would like to bring their grandchildren back and say “your granddad helped plant all these trees!”
Patrick explains that the intention is to create a forest so that everyone can appreciate and enjoy the area as it used to be, in time to come. Patrick says he can’t help himself, but finds he asks each worker what offence they’ve committed. “I always ask them ‘what could you have done differently, to avoid this situation you’re in?’ I try to fill their heads with other options. I acknowledge that normal for us, isn’t necessarily normal for them, though.”
“I really want to help people make changes in their lives; many of these guys are rough diamonds, but they just need polishing, and then they’ll shine,” he says.
Patrick is ‘more than happy’ with the work being done. It’s not a hard job, but care needs to be taken to plant the seedlings correctly.
Charities benefit from offenders' efforts in Kapiti
Community work offenders on the Kapiti Coast undertook a massive clean-up project, until a tornado struck and undid all their superb work.
The Pharazan Reserve was the scene of a vast clean-up project lasting two days a week for over a year: mulching, cleaning, tidying and sprucing the 40 hectare site.
However, when the tornado swept through the area in July 2011, the newly spruced reserve was once again in a major state of disrepair. Pine trees were uprooted, and chaos was evident in every direction.
This situation presented another opportunity for community work offenders to really make a difference. Pine cones were collected on behalf of the Kapiti Pakeke Lions Club, and were sold as kindling at the local market. Over $5,000 was raised and donated to Wellington Free Ambulance, Ronald McDonald House, the Christchurch earthquake and others.
Lions Club President Jim Hall is fully appreciative of the work undertaken. “Our Pakeke Lions Club are very happy with the work the offenders do, and the fact that the money goes straight back to the community makes for an even better result for everyone,” says Jim.
The reserve will once again be open to the public at the end of this year, with planting re-done, mulching laid and picnic tables erected. The area will soon be ready to receive visitors
Murals with a meaning
Expressing himself through his art was a pleasure for one Waitakere-based community work offender, and the results are outstanding.
In and out of prison for most of his life, ‘Mark’ was serving time on home detention. He purchased a tattoo machine, but needed bodies to practice on. Probation Officers Monique Henare and Debbie Cresswell felt it better to use Mark’s artistic talents in an activity of a pro-social nature. They thought the Ratanui Community Work Centre wall could benefit from a mural and the idea evolved from there. This subsequently developed to a second mural project at another Corrections site.
Having spent some time with a Corrections’ bi-cultural therapist and counsellor, Mark set to work, painting the murals. The first mural is primarily a conversational piece containing two themes. Firstly, the creation and the separation of the Sky father (Ranginui) and the Earth mother (Papatuanuku) by their children (Nga Atua). It depicts all the elements, including night and day. The second theme is a geographical depiction of the Henderson area, showingspecific landmarks within the community. Mark has included some artistic tokens of thanks, acknowledging the support he has received from Community Probation staff who made the work possible.
The second mural is located in the whanau room at the Railside service centre. It shows three faces which represent whanau and includes native features of fauna and flora including a fantail and a heron, the latter being native to the local Waitakere Ranges.
Through completing the murals, Mark’s confidence has grown, he has increased self worth and has new-found pride from the recognition he has received.
Mark found a part-time job – his first ever, at the age of 45. It was also the first time he had fully completed a sentence. In his recent court appearance, the Judge handed down a sentence that acknowledged the significant changes Mark had made in his life.
Interactions with Corrections’ staff at all levels meant that Mark was surrounded by pro-social people who gave him praise, engaged with him, provided him with positive reinforcement and made him feel proud of his achievements.
Having previously been a high-risk offender, Mark was reduced to medium-risk status. He returned his gang colours and patch, and disassociated himself from people who weren’t good for him. Mark has moved north and is currently looking for paid employment.
In a letter he sent to the Waitakere community probation team, Mark said “you treated me like a human being and guided me through a lot…thank you”.
A cultural journey for all
Tauranga’s Hungahungatoroa Marae has been on the receiving end of major maintenance work for more than a year, with at times two or three community work teams undertaking significant work to spruce up the premises.
Typically a work team (comprising up to ten offenders) was at the marae a day a week, but there were also other short bursts of full-time work carried out.
Initially, it was solely the marae that required deep cleaning, washing, sweeping, painting, building and weeding; but such was the quality of the workmanship, that the sponsor extended the project to include the sports club adjacent to the marae, and also the kohanga reo across the road.
Community Work Supervisor Cornelius Valentijn has been on-site for much of the year, during which the kitchen was stripped out, three coats of paint applied to the exterior of the building, a concrete floor laid as a base for gas containers, a lean-to for the hangi pit erected, a woodshed built and scrub was cut to carve a 100 metre track for easy access to the beach.
Cornelius was proud to report on the teamwork and the sense of achievement among the offenders. “They hadn’t known what it was to work as a team. We ended up working as one big family; the project really brought everyone together.” Cornelius also said having offenders work at the marae was a great choice of venue. “For the Maori offenders, the work gave them a real sense of identity; and for the non-Maori, the work gave the offenders a better understanding and awareness of Maori culture through the experiences they shared,” he says.
What stood this project apart from others was that the offenders enjoyed the fact that no two days were the same and that they could really see a significant difference with the site improving dramatically before their eyes.
The project also helped the offenders develop life-long building, painting, fencing and cleaning skills. Even the scrub-cutting in a team environment was an enjoyable task. Cornelius reports that the men looked forward to showing up every morning for work.
Chairperson of the marae, Kataraina Paraire wrote a letter of ‘deepest thanks to the many community workers’ who were involved on their site. The letter reads, “We have received some very good feedback about the workmanship of the work completed and once again we are eternally grateful for the man and woman-power provided.”
A hive of activity on the Chatham Islands
Chatham Islands typically has 6-9 offenders at any given time. Due to its remote location, the solo Senior Community Work Supervisor Richard Seymour works closely with Police who often assist with sentence completion if the weather is poor and distances between various projects is too large.
One of the substantial recipients of community work is the Norman Kirk Memorial Reserve and Scout Den. Caretaker Brenda Tuanui is very pleased with the vast amount of work undertaken by the workers. From moving the Scout Den building across a field, knocking walls down, interior painting, decking; to the huge jobs of fencing the netball court and machine digging for the septic tank and soak pit. Brenda acknowledges that they are very fortunate to have the offenders doing such a vast amount of work. “To be honest, without the workers, I don’t know where we’d be. We’re very fortunate to have their assistance and the offenders are so approachable and easy to talk to, we have absolutely no problem at all.”
Another significant recipient of community work labour is the Chatham Islands Jockey Club. The track is regularly maintained and levelled, rails and fences are mended, the club building has been painted and general upkeep is maintained. Club committee member Greg Horler says it’s always great to have extras to help.
“The men have always ripped into the work, and with great results,” he says. As an additional bonus, pine logs were split by the workers for firewood and over $4,000 was raised for the club.
Richard talks about the intricacies of the role – getting it right so each offender feels valued enough to believe they are making a significant contribution to their community work. Respect and responsibility are the key traits Richard can enforce on his team in order to fend off any possibility of repeat offending.
“Most of the offenders are ‘damn good workers’ and they can see I’m not the type to put up with any nonsense. They need respect and some responsibility, then they have a chance of getting it right,” says Richard.
Richard has a number of other strings to his bow, including being employed as a stock truck driver, the Chatham Islands council dog control officer and also running his farm.