Corrections News Nov-Dec 2009

Chief Executive's comment

barry-matthewsWelcome to the last issue of Corrections News for 2009.

It’s been a year of change, with a new government bringing new priorities for Corrections, and the global economic situation impacting on many aspects of our work.

As our annual report shows, we now have fewer escapes and a lower rate of random positive drug tests than ever before. Results like this are brought about through careful planning and a great deal of vigilance and smart thinking.

We’ve faced our challenges, such as implementing initiatives to improve our compliance with parole management, with an open mind, and have achieved significant improvements in this area.

I thank all staff for their hard work over the year, and I also extend my thanks to those Corrections News readers who support our work and help us to reduce re-offending and improve public safety.

Many of you will have heard about the recent cases of prison staff bringing in drugs for prisoners. Needless to say, Corrections takes these cases very seriously, and while their discovery is deeply disappointing, it is at least indicative of the robust nature of our anti-corruption systems.

In 2007 I set up the Professional Standards Unit (PSU), who report directly to me, to uncover and root out unethical behaviour wherever it exists. Working closely with our Inspectorate, Internal Audit and Operational Intelligence Teams, the PSU work across our entire organisation – from head office, to community probation service centres, to prisons.

I know that the vast majority of staff do a difficult job with honesty and integrity. It is a great shame that the behaviour of a few individuals can lead the public to question the professionalism of all staff and undermine our efforts to keep drugs out of our prisons.

Make no mistake, we will not tolerate corruption and we are working tirelessly to catch anyone guilty of wrongdoing.

On a more positive note, I’m looking forward to a full and busy year in 2010. Our change programme, The Way Forward will help us create a Department that is future-proofed and ready for the next decade.

All the best for the summer and the festive season.

Barry Matthews

Cellphone jamming in prisons wins award

Using technology to combat crime: (left to right) Assistant General Manager for Systems and Infrastructure Derek Lyons, Vodafone Corporate and Government Regional Sales Manager Shane Grove, General Manager Systems and Infrastructure Bob Calland, Vodafone Head of Government Relations Roger Ellis, Programme Manager Richelle Mucalo, Telecom General Manager Engineering Mike Moran.Corrections has won an award for our work jamming cellphones in our 20 prisons nationwide.

We won the Computerworld Excellence in the use of Information and Communications Technology in Government Award on 28 October.

“We’re very pleased the project has been recognised by our peers in the IT industry,” says Derek Lyons, Assistant General Manager for Systems and Infrastructure and part of the project team.

“When their contraband cellphones don’t work due to the jamming technology, it’s more difficult for prisoners to commit crimes such as intimidating witnesses, organising drug deals and harassing victims,” he says.

While cellphone blocking is not an entirely new initiative, with one or two other countries using it, there are no other instances worldwide of the same degree of precision or overall coverage of a prison estate.

“Many prisons in New Zealand are sited in towns and have very close neighbours. We’ve had to be very innovative to ensure that prisoners’ cellphones are blocked, without impacting on the neighbours,” says Derek.

The technology could not have been implemented without the help of Telecom and Vodafone.

The Way Forward

The Way Forward Team (pictured) driving and co-ordinating Corrections' change programme. Back row (left to right) Project Officer Joy Drury, Chief Executive Barry Matthews, Business Development Manager Win McDonald, Senior Adviser Human Resources Sarah Smith, Project Manager Bridget White, Deputy Chief Executive Sandi Beatie and Communications Manager Julie McBurney. Corrections has begun implementation of a concerted programme of change to improve our effectiveness and efficiency and improve public safety.

The Way Forward programme encompasses changes to the way Corrections is structured and to the way we approach and carry out many of our core tasks.

One of the most significant changes will be the establishment of a single service known as Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services (RRS). The new service will oversee all, and deliver some, of our core rehabilitation and reintegration work (currently rehabilitation and reintegration services are more fragmented).

Establishing the new RRS will require a fundamental rethink of our approach to rehabilitation and reintegration to ensure our services are world-class and effective in reducing re-offending. The re-think will include external consultation and a focus on improving services for M?ori.

Our corporate structure and processes will be realigned to provide better support to front-line services.

Simplifying and improving our often complex systems and processes is another important part of The Way Forward. We will remove duplication, inefficiencies and barriers that stop us delivering services effectively. We will continue to focus on getting the basics right and manage our risks appropriately.

Corrections has a number of performance improvement initiatives already underway, such as the Community Probation Services' Change Programme, the Prison Site Management Review and the Prison Capacity Development Programme. These programmes align with The Way Forward.

We estimate that it will take three years to implement all the changes, realise full potential, and release efficiency gains. The initial changes will be in place by Christmas, with key projects starting and a newly constituted executive team in place.

Busted!

Tasty talk: a cellphone concealed in a sandwich was found by staff during a routine search of prisoners??? cells.Cellphone sandwich
Spring Hill Corrections Facility staff carrying out a routine search found a cellphone concealed in an old sandwich in one unit, as well as rags for strapping items to the body and plastic food-wrap for wrapping items to be concealed internally.

Black and white and read all over
Manawatu Prison staff found cannabis oil smeared between the pages of two magazines that were couriered to a prisoner. Although there was no sender’s name and address on the package, the sharp-eyed staff were quick to recognise that the handwriting matched that of a recent visitor.

Manawatu Prison staff had another win when they noticed a vehicle drive past and drop off a passenger who walked around the prison perimeter. Staff contacted Police who apprehended the man who was identified as an offender who had been recently released. When the prison drug dog and handler searched the area they found drugs and a cellphone on the roof of a storage shed wrapped up in a sock.

Know something? Dial 0800 JAILSAFE
0800 JAILSAFE (0800 524 572) is a free national phone line for anyone to anonymously phone in information relating to the trafficking of drugs or other crimes in our prisons.

Prisoners free to complain

Prisoners can free-phone a prison inspector directly with any complaints or issues.The Prison Inspectorate is readily available for any prisoner to contact them with any issue or complaint about their sentence management.

“New Zealand prisoners are well-served in terms of being able to have their issues and complaints heard,” says Senior Inspector Gren Bell.

Prisoners can ring a free phone number that connects them directly with an inspector. They can also write or ask to see an inspector personally at a prison site visit.

“The phone line especially is like a pressure valve. Prisoners can feel they’ve got someone to go to who’s not in a green uniform, and even if we say ‘no’ to them or confirm what they’ve been told in prison, they feel they’ve been heard and that what we say is correct,” says Gren.

Gren and his team of seven inspectors carry out about 100 prison visits a year to inspect the site, hear complaints, carry out system reviews and report back to the Chief Executive.
The inspectors have been carrying out their basic functions since their establishment under the previous Penal Institutions Act of 1954.

“We’re ‘part of the furniture’ and prisoners know inspectors will give the right answer. It’s a long-standing and trusted process,” says Gren.

While prisoners generate most of the inspectors’ workload, the inspectors also investigate complaints and serious incidents relating to community-based sentences.

Many complaints can be resolved by the corrections officers or probation officers the offenders deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, if resolution can’t be achieved at this level, the complaint is referred to the next appropriate level up. Higher levels, in ascending order, are:

  • unit or service managers
  • prison superintendents and site managers
  • inspectors of corrections
  • external agencies (Office of the Ombudsmen, Privacy Commissioner, Health and Disabilities Commissioner who also have free phone lines)

While resolution doesn’t always mean the complainant will be satisfied with the outcome, it is always explained so the offender understands how it was reached.

Gren says, understandably, prisoners simply do not like many of the things that happen to them; being told when to eat and when to be locked up, and this is reflected in complaints about staff conduct and attitude.

Many complaints relate to prisoners’ personal property being lost or damaged, for example during prisoner transfers. The internal disciplinary process (the consequences prisoners face if they break prison rules) also generates its fair share of complaints. Another common cause of complaints is the sentence calculation process (for example, the calculations that determine when a prisoner is due for parole or release). Sentence calculation is quite complex and often not well-understood by prisoners. Having an inspector reassure them that their sentence calculation is correct is sometimes all they need.

Gren says that on average only three percent of complaints are upheld. This percentage has been falling consistently over the past five years since a more robust process was established at prison site level to enable corrections officers to manage complaints more effectively.

Complaints from community-based offenders are rare, and mostly relate to some aspect of sentence management or work placement.

Inspectors of Corrections:

  • report directly to the Chief Executive and are independent from prison management
  • receive around 6,000 contacts from offenders a year
  • investigate around 3,000 formal complaints a year
  • undertake around 20 investigations a year relating to the safe, fair and humane treatment of prisoners
  • monitor the progress and outcomes of a further 60 or so internal prison investigations.

Judgement calls

Inspector Ruth Reese.Inspector Ruth Reese is taking her turn to answer the prisoner complaint line. She listens carefully to every caller and makes a judgement about whether to deal with the matter herself or refer the prisoner back to the internal complaints system.

“We [the inspectors] are not on anybody’s side. We’re here to make sure prisoners get what they’re entitled to and don’t get what they’re not entitled to,” she says.

She says the last complaint she dealt with herself was quite typical.

“A prisoner who was transferred between prisons ten days ago has still not received a letter from his partner containing $80 and a $20 phone-card.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s a small issue, but you can understand that it’s important to him. It’s an administrative matter, so the custodial staff were just saying ‘it’ll turn up’, but the prisoner was getting anxious, so he came to us.

“Since ten days had elapsed I decided I would step in rather than telling him to go back and deal with unit staff via an internal complaint.

“I made a call to the admin officer at the prison he was transferred to and she tracked the letter back to the site he was transferred from. Then I rang the prisoner to tell him his property is safe and on its way to him.”

Corrections helps with Fresh Start

Corrections Programme Delivery Facilitators Nazea Silbery and Andy Baynes.Two Corrections programme delivery facilitators are helping Child, Youth and Family (CYF) and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with their Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) concept test which started at Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice residence in Christchurch in September.

The MAC programme is part of the Ministry of Social Development’s Fresh Start for Young Offenders Programme, and is aimed at serious young offenders aged 16 – 17.

But although the MAC programme includes elements of military-style training, Programme Facilitator Andy Baynes says he and colleague Nazea Silbery are leaving the physical training to their NZDF colleagues.

“We’re running a similar cognitive-behavioural therapy-based rehabilitative programme to the one we run at Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit.
 
Young people at the Burnham Camp confidence course - part of the programme at the CYF/NZDF Military-style Activity Course. “We cover issues such as managing emotions, respecting the rights of others, communicating assertively rather than aggressively and changing old patterns of behaviour,” says Andy.

Andy and Nazea have also given training to CYF staff so they can reinforce the learning the young people do during each session of the programme.

“The CYF staff were very open to learning so the training’s been a huge success. For example, one of the CYF staff used the concept of analysing actions with one of the teenagers who’d smashed a window in anger. The boy said that his ‘old’ self would have blamed it on someone else, but his ‘new’ self took responsibility and owned up,” says Nazea.

CYF MAC Project Manager Ashley Seaford says he’s been very impressed by the professionalism and willingness to help of Corrections staff at all levels.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about Andy and Nazea’s work from CYF and NZDF staff. Also, Corrections’ management have been so flexible, supportive and helpful; they’ve been absolutely brilliant to work with,” he says.

Corrections has been developing and running programmes for young prisoners for years and more recently for young offenders in the community, so Manager Programme Delivery Janine Harrington says we were happy to lend our experience and expertise to CYF.

“It’s a great opportunity to share our knowledge,” she says.

Community Probation Services' change programme

Chair of the Expert Panel Paula Rebstock.The Expert Panel established to work with Community Probation Services (CPS) in March 2009 recently released a comprehensive change programme.

Chair of the Expert Panel, Paula Rebstock, says the programme has been developed by CPS with the support of the Panel.

“CPS is in a strong position to make major changes in its approach to service delivery. It also benefits from the commitment of skilled staff, which will help it to move forward,” she says.

“CPS has been predominantly focusing on sentence compliance and has achieved some significant gains in this area. However, this focus is only one of three critical and overlapping areas. It is equally important that CPS focuses on reducing the likelihood of offenders re-offending and minimising the risk of harm to others.”

A critical feature of the new approach will be better targeting of time, effort and resources according to the risk each offender presents – not just  according to the sentence they are on.

A new assessment tool being piloted in Canada and New Zealand will also be used to provide a more accurate measurement of the offender’s dynamic (or changing) risk throughout their sentence. This will help probation staff make decisions as they manage the offender.

A new chief probation officer role, reporting to the general manager of CPS, will also be established. The chief probation officer will be responsible for practice leadership and will provide direct support in the ongoing design of probation practice. The Expert Panel considered that with the move to a new model of practice, where staff will be making more decisions within a new, well-structured, supported decision framework, the senior management group, managers and staff needed more support.

The chief probation officer will also review practice in specific cases, and when undertaking reviews of major incidents will report directly to the chief executive on findings and recommendations.

A knowledge bank will also be available for staff as a key part of the practice framework. This will hold all the relevant research and information to support staff in implementing mandatory standards and making decisions within the supported decision framework.

Paula says that having worked with the senior management group over the last few months, the Panel is confident they have the capability to drive these significant changes in the organisation.

“CPS has developed an exciting change programme that will transform both the way probation delivers services and the results it will achieve.”

Key recommendations of the Expert Panel:

  • Sentence compliance will continue to be a major focus, but CPS will also concentrate on two other key areas – reducing the likelihood of offenders re-offending, and minimising the risk of harm to others
  • Establish a chief probation officer role
  • Shift from classification of risk to the management and reduction of risk
  • Move from a highly prescriptive and procedure-based framework to one where more professional judgment is used
  • Promote clearer accountability and greater responsibility among staff
    Significant gains can be made from a fundamental rethink and redesign of probation activities
  • Changes to be rolled out from March 2010 to March 2012.

Reading and maths key to a crime-free life

Learning literacy and numeracy basics in prison will not only help prisoners find work on release, but will help them in their daily lives, such as helping their children with homework.Just over a year ago, Corrections changed the focus of prisoner education from National Certificate in Employment Skills (NCES) to providing help with literacy and numeracy.

Since this change, over 1,260 prisoners (over 19 percent of all sentenced prisoners in the country) have received literacy or numeracy training from tutors.

Operations Policy Advisor Victoria Wiseman says the goal is to teach prisoners skills that will help them find and keep a job.

“Of course prisoners who already have basic literacy and numeracy skills do still study for national certificates and other qualifications, but we found we needed to go back to basics with more intensive literacy and numeracy programmes for up to 60 percent of prisoners.

“If prisoners can get a job on release they’ll be less likely to re-offend. And the literacy skills they learn have other benefits, such as enabling them to help their children with homework,” she says.

Prisoners receive the training for two hours twice a week in small groups of up to eight prisoners. With help from their tutor, they use workbooks that contain real life scenarios, such as studying to pass a written driving test, or what to say in a job interview.

Victoria says 60 percent of the more than 1,260 prisoners who received training have made measurable improvements.

“That’s a very positive result, especially as sitting down in a classroom is so alien to many prisoners. Also, many of them find it very difficult to display their lack of skills in front of the others,” she says.

Victoria says the positive results mean we’re hoping to expand the training to more prisoners.

“At the moment we only offer it to prisoners serving sentences of six months or more, and only to the ones whose literacy and numeracy skills are really poor. We’d like to be able to offer it to those on shorter sentences, and to the 90 percent of prisoners whose literacy skills are a little better, but still lower than average.”

Education and training for 1,000 more prisoners

More work-related training for prisoners is an important focus in Corrections' Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy 2009 - 2012.Corrections’ new Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy 2009 – 2012 outlines the ways we plan to increase the numbers of prisoners in education and work training, with a focus on prison-based training.

The strategy creates a framework to increase the number of prisoners receiving training in areas such as literacy, numeracy and work skills, as well as increasing the number of prisoners in industry-based training.

Short-term projects outlined in the strategy will increase the numbers of prisoners in education or work by 1,000 on any given day.

Longer term, we will be able to offer the equivalent of 125 more full-time student places to prisoners studying for NZQA-approved courses. Chief Executive Barry Matthews says the strategy focuses on ‘doing more of what we know works’.

“We will be looking to build on the relationships that we have established with Institutes of Technology and Polytechs around the country, and develop new partnerships.
 
“We will be increasing the number of training places available to prisoners, and extending what we already have in place to create opportunities for remand prisoners, and those serving shorter sentences,” he says.

Research shows that prisoners who find meaningful employment on release are less likely to re-offend.

Download the strategy

Informing the victims

The Victim Notification Register (VNR) helps victims of serious crime stay informed about the person who offended against them.

Victims of certain crimes, such as sexual crimes or when the victim has ongoing fears for his/her safety, can apply to the Police to be put on the VNR.

The Police verify their eligibility and give the victim’s details to Corrections or the Ministry of Health, whoever has custody of the offender.

Corrections Victims Information Manager Jan Ryan says Corrections currently has more than 2,000 victims on the register.

“It’s crucial for victims to register with the Police if they want us to inform them. We have had instances where victims feel they have been let down by the system when they are not notified about the offender. Unfortunately, this is usually because they haven’t registered or haven’t updated their details.”

It’s the job of Corrections’ Victim Notification Coordinators to make contact with the registered victims. There is a coordinator based at every prison and Community Probation Services area office in the country.

The coordinators usually send a letter, but they make a phone call if the offender has escaped or died, and refer victims to support if they need it.

Wanganui Prison Unit Manager and Victim Notification Coordinator, Jackie Sheehy says the victims she talks to are always very grateful to be informed.

“Obviously, some victims are still very traumatised and fearful about coming into contact with the offender, so the earlier the notification, the better equipped and mentally prepared they can be,” she says.

“I recall one instance when I contacted a victim and it was great to hear her comments about how she was aware that her offender was attending various prison programmes and doing Release to Work while living in a Self-Care Unit.  While she could never forget what had happened to her, she was supportive of the fact the offender was trying to make a go of it and change his life for the better.”

This year the Ministry of Justice is undertaking a review of victims’ rights and access to support services. The review will include options to enhance the victim notification system.

A day in the life of a drug dog and handler

'Officer' Ted is helping Corrections win the fight against drugs in prisons. Officer Ted works full-time in Waikeria Prison for nothing more than his bed and board and a reward game with a retrieve toy.

Ted, a German short-haired pointer, is a Corrections drug dog. He lives and works alongside his handler Maurice O’Connor, helping in Corrections’ fight against drugs and contraband.

It’s a war we’re winning according to the falling numbers of prisoners testing positive in random drug tests. When testing began in the late 1990s, 34 percent of prisoners tested positive; this figure has now plummeted to 10.5 percent.

Maurice and Ted start their day with a quick, happy training search.

“It’s a bit like a cup of coffee to a human; the search sparks him up and puts him in a good frame of mind for the day,” says Maurice.

Maurice uses ‘contaminates’ to simulate real searches for Ted. These are items such as rags or cardboard that have taken on the smell of a real narcotic.

“Ted simply loves to work. He’s very good at finding the exact source of a substance. If he finds something he freezes until he gets his reward – a toy to play with,” says Maurice.
Maurice and Ted have been working together for nearly two years, but Maurice has been a handler for twelve years, and was a corrections officer before that for the same length of time.

Corrections Drug Dog Handler Maurice O'Connor puts Ted through his paces during a training exercise in the Waikeria Prison Farm. “I’d worked with four drug dogs before Ted. However, when the Police allocated Ted to me I knew I had a very special dog after the first day’s training. I wouldn’t swap him for anything,” says Maurice.

Maurice and Ted,like the eleven other drug dog teams around the country, work very closely with prison management and Corrections’ intelligence teams.

“Some of the best finds with Ted in the last year have been due to Intel notifying me that a target is due to visit the prison at a certain date and time. It’s a team effort and it’s a great way of working.”

Maurice says most visitors are not alarmed to see Ted and often ask if they can pat him.
“However, the ones with little parcels in their underwear are usually a bit concerned to see him,” he says.

As well as searching visitors, Maurice and Ted patrol the eight kilometres of roads and carparks on the Waikeria Prison site.

“We’ve made some good finds on quiet days with little traffic or visiting; along comes a visitor with a big stash of drugs hidden in his vehicle, not expecting to be searched.”

Recently, in one week, Ted found methamphetamine, morphine, diazepam and cannabis on visitors and in posted parcels. Maurice says that on a good day they might make five or six finds, but on other days they’ll find nothing.

Earlier in the year, Maurice and Ted came a very close second in the prestigious National Police Dog Trials for Narcotics Detection. They were just pipped at the post by a Customs team, and Maurice says he’s hoping to win next year.

But before they can think about training for the Trials, they have to get through the Christmas rush.

“A lot of people send in and carry dodgy Christmas parcels,” says Maurice.

Evidence-based practice - a critical success factor

What’s new in the literature?
By David Riley, Chief Adviser Psychological Services

It would seem fundamental that important human services are based on evidence. Not necessarily so, according to a recent paper by Francis Cullen and colleagues1.

The authors note that practices in many domains, such as medicine, management, social work, and the management of offenders, are not based on carefully collected and weighed data, but on clinical experience at best, and on ’gut feeling‘, intuition, custom and ideology at worst.
 
Despite over half a century of research which shows that ‘numbers-based’ decision making is better than clinical judgements, evidence is still not being used to guide interventions into people’s lives.

The cost of ’ignoring the numbers‘ is poorer decision making. In human terms, this means that patients die needlessly, challenged children do not learn to read, the mentally ill are not cured and offenders are not rehabilitated.

For example, it has been estimated that in the US each year between 40,000 and 100,000 people die as a result of medical errors, which is higher than the death rate from highway accidents and from AIDS.  The authors suggest that a major contribution to this alarming statistic is a failure to base current medical practice on the most rigorous scientific findings available.

The authors then go on to expand this line of argument to the Corrections area, and entertainingly illustrate it by referencing an American baseball team, The Atlanta Athletics, who achieved outstanding results by basing their playing tactics and managerial strategy on a compendium of baseball statistics published in 2003. Indeed, the success of this team was like a small rugby team such as North Otago being in contention for the Air New Zealand Cup!

After carefully reviewing the way the baseball team used the statistical evidence, they go on to derive ’eight lessons‘ applicable to Corrections. These include lessons such as, ’like baseball, in Corrections ”looks” are more important than effectiveness‘, and, ’like baseball, in Corrections, the wrong theory can lead to stupid decisions’.

This article is readable and entertaining, and the underlying message is clear: in all areas of human service provision, people suffer and die because politicians, policy makers, and practitioners fail to take account of the evidence.

Footnote
1 Cullen F, Myer A, and Latessa, E (2009), Eight Lessons from Moneyball; the High Cost of Ignoring Evidence-Based Corrections.  Victims and Offenders 4 pp. 197-213.

News in brief

Kia Marama twenty and Te Piriti fifteen
Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit for child sex offenders at Rolleston Prison celebrated its twentieth anniversary on 9 October. Kia Marama was the first unit of its type in the world. Corrections’ other special treatment unit for child sex offenders, Te Piriti, at Auckland Prison, marked its fifteenth anniversary on 2 September.

Annual Report available
Initiatives to improve parole management are well underway and prisoner escapes and positive drug tests are down. Click here for our new annual report.

Is it a watch? Is it a phone? Is it a camera? Prison staff have been warned to look out for gadgets that could be all three.Prison staff on alert for watch-phones
Cellphones that look like watches are the latest contraband gadgets for which prison staff must be on the alert. The watch-phones come packed with sophisticated features such as internet connectivity and cameras. They will be jammed like regular cellphones, but it is an offence to have them in a prison. Prisoners and prison visitors are currently allowed to wear watches so prison staff have been warned to check these out.

Minister's column

Corrections Minister Judith Collins (centre) at the Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy launch at Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility with Unit Manager Barbara Jamieson (left) and Corrections Officer David Latu. One of Corrections’ most important roles is giving prisoners the skills to lead law-abiding and productive lives when they are released.

Some of these prisoners are simply bad, and nothing anyone can do will prevent them forging a career in crime and spending much of their lives behind bars.

But for many prisoners, re-offending is perhaps less a matter of choice than the result of them being poorly equipped to lead a law-abiding and productive life.

Approximately 43 percent of prisoners – and 65 percent of prisoners under 20 – re-offend within a year of their release. Within four years approximately 70 percent of released prisoners will have re-offended.

Their time in custody can be a turning point.

The Government recently announced a number of changes aimed at turning offenders’ lives around. The number of Drug Treatment Unit beds in prisons will double to 1,000 beds by 2011, giving more prisoners the chance to tackle their drug addictions.
 
The recently launched Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy will see 1,000 more prisoners receive employment-related training or experience by 2012. It will also improve the literacy and numeracy training provided to prisoners.
 
These initiatives will make it easier for released prisoners to get into work and to stay out of trouble.

The Associate Minister of Corrections, Pita Sharples, is developing plans to support M?ori prisoners move back successfully into their communities. This will build on the positive work already performed by M?ori Focus Units.

Corrections is strengthening its focus on rehabilitating offenders. It is setting up a Rehabilitation Services Group to provide rehabilitation services to both community offenders and prisoners. Community Probation Services will also strengthen its focus on reducing re-offending and rehabilitation as part of its wider change programme.

Corrections staff, volunteers, and community groups work with offenders day-to-day. This work sees many offenders leave the Corrections system better people than when they entered it.

Protecting the safety of the public is Corrections’ number one priority. Turning offenders around onto more positive and productive paths will reduce their chances of re-offending. That will make society a safer place for everyone.

When we release prisoners at the end of their sentence, we don’t want to see them back.

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

The gift of giving

All Christmas presents sent to prisoners are first opened and carefully checked by vigilant corrections officers.In the build-up to Christmas, Corrections is often asked how the occasion is treated in New Zealand’s prisons. While Christmas Day is acknowledged as a special occasion it is done so within the constraints of the prison environment and is therefore a simple affair. A typical Christmas day in prison includes a hot meal and optional activities such as sports or games and a religious service.

But what about gifts? While prisoners are not allowed visits from family or friends on Christmas Day, they can receive approved gifts such as clothes, books and CDs. All gifts are subject to our usual stringent security and approval processes to prevent contraband entering the prison. This includes strict guidelines on what and how much property prisoners can keep in cells or the property store. Any gifts must also meet cell standards (for example, no pornography or gang paraphernalia is allowed).

Hawkes Bay Regional Prison Manager George Massingham says most prohibited gift items are obvious things like drugs and firearms.

“But there are some non-permitted things that surprise people, such as electronic gaming equipment and aerosols.

“We advise all those wanting to give a gift to a prisoner to check our approved gifts policy,” he says.

Small amounts of money can be deposited into prisoners’ trust accounts, but the account balance must not exceed $200 at any one time. Prisoners can use this money to buy extra items during the Christmas season such as chocolate or Christmas cake.

But Christmas isn’t just about receiving gifts. In the months before Christmas, some prisoners spend their free time using skills gained from prison programmes to make gifts they can send home.

“Prisoners using their new-found skills to make gifts shows the Christmas spirit, and having family and friends in their lives to give to is also very important to the rehabilitative process,” says George.