Corrections News Mar-Apr 2010
Chief Executive's comment
I recently attended the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation Colloquium in South Africa where delegates promote studies in the field of crime prevention and the treatment of offenders, especially by scientific research, publications and teaching.
From my observations and discussions with fellow delegates at the Colloquium, the muster of many prisons in African countries far exceeds their capacity. Managing prisoners in those environments is quite different to New Zealand’s situation where we do aim to provide rehabilitative opportunities while detaining offenders.
That said, we too have had to adjust to increased muster numbers. The successful completion of the double bunking project is one measure to add beds to the prison system. In the last six months, 716 beds have been added to the prison system – a further 170 will be ready by September. Together, this is almost equal to the combined opening capacity of three of the newest Corrections’ facilities: Northland, Auckland Women’s and Otago. Additional facilities have also been added at the sites, including health units, exercise yards and staff facilities. And an extra 233 staff have been employed.
Complementing the double bunking project, the construction of our first container cell unit at Rimutaka Prison is moving along well and will be finished in a matter of weeks. The 60-bed test unit will provide a cost-effective and quick solution to provide more beds for prisoners. Converted shipping containers have been used in prisons in other countries for some years, so the solution is one we hope will work well here in New Zealand.
The Department has just launched its new prisoner security classification system. The new system has been designed to reduce the number of escapes and will improve public safety. The new system calculates the external risk presented by a prisoner differently from the current system by taking a broader range of factors (such as age) into account and focusing more on escape prevention. The new system sees the introduction of five new security categories: Minimum, Low, Low-Medium, High and Maximum which will apply to both male and female prisoners.
Welcome to new Chief Probation Officer
Corrections welcomes Krystyna Findley who arrived in February from the UK to take up her 12-month secondment as our first Chief Probation Officer. Her initial task is to help develop a new practice framework for probation and to ensure the framework and its support mechanisms are effective in improving offender compliance, reducing the likelihood of reoffending and minimising the risk of harm to others. Krystyna is on secondment from her position as Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales and brings a wealth of operational and strategic experience to the position.
Criminal justice forecast
The Criminal Justice Forecast Report 2009 – 2017, released in February, indicates that the prison population is forecast to reach 10,314 by 30 June 2017. This is an increase of 1941 beds from June 2009.
The forecast shows that the prison population is expected to grow more slowly over the next eight years than it has over the past eight years, and more slowly than forecast in 2008. By June 2016 the total prison population is now expected to be 646 lower than forecast last year, due for the most part to lower growth in the length of time prisoners are remanded in custody awaiting trial or sentence, resulting from reduced court processing times.
The forecast also projects that there will be as many as 8000 new community-based sentences or orders started per month in 2013 (much of the time required to supervise these sentences is at the start, making new starts the most important factor).
The full report is available on the website of the Department of Justice.
What makes Malcolm McHale a PRIDE winner?
Passion for the job, the respect of colleagues, knowledge of Maori language and culture, and effective offender management are just some of the things that make Malcolm McHale a successful Community Work Supervisor. They have also earned him a PRIDE Award – the Department’s highest honour, recognising outstanding contributions by staff.
After more than 20 years with the Department, Malcolm, aka Whero, has his own recipe for getting the best out of the community work offenders he works with. ”It’s about people skills, understanding pressures in their lives, understanding their culture, having basic trade skills,” says Malcolm. “I have always treated offenders with the same respect that I treat my son.” It’s a philosophy he lives by to this day.
Malcolm recalls his first day, supervising patched gang members. “I was nervous and the offenders could tell I was new so when we got to our destination they told me that supervisors work alongside them. With no way to confirm the truth of this, I spent 10 hours with a machete alongside the offenders cutting bushes. My hands were covered in blisters. It wasn’t until I went back to the office for a debrief that the warden told me I wasn’t meant to labour with the offenders.”
The valuable lesson he learnt that day about a hands-on approach is something he’s carried on, not only mucking in with the offenders but also finding and nurturing their skills and encouraging them to learn their language and culture. “Malcolm doesn’t have Maori ancestry but his thirst for knowledge of the culture is infectious. He’s an inspiration not only to the offenders he works with but also to his colleagues,” says Roseanne Bray, Service Manager Rotorua.
“Malcolm uses te reo on a daily basis, when speaking to fellow colleagues in the office, with offenders and his radio checks from the work site, keeping true to the Department’s philosophy of what works with Maori works for the Department.”
Although Malcolm loves what he does, the role has its challenges. “You realise early on that you don’t just deal with first-time offenders, there’ll be some hardened criminals in the mix. You learn to be a counsellor as well as a supervisor, and come sunshine or rain your work is mainly outdoors.”
It is a testament to Malcolm’s approach to his work that most of the offenders he works with comply with their sentences. In February Chief Executive Barry Matthews awarded Malcolm a PRIDE award – the Department’s highest honour. Those present at the award ceremony had the pleasure of listening to Malcolm respond in M?ori on behalf of the recipients at the powhiri.
“I was blown away by Malcolm,” says Maureen Larking, Learning and Development Coordinator and fellow PRIDE recipient. “The way he spoke for us at the ceremony was impressive and awe inspiring! It made us all proud to be working at Corrections.”
Congratulations to this year’s other PRIDE Award winners:
Programme Facilitators Nazea Silbery and Andrew Baynes, Programme Delivery Christchurch
Catering Instructor Vivienne Wairepo, CIE, Internal Services, Waikeria Prison
Acting Unit Manager Nigel Petrie, Hawkes Bay Regional Prison
Learning & Development Coordinator Maureen Larking, Staff College.
The Way Forward update
The way in which policy advice is developed, managed and implemented can have a significant influence on the culture of an organisation and its success in achieving its outcomes. Part of enacting the desired cultural change for Corrections is changing the way we work – so that groups have a co-operative, cohesive and collaborative working approach.
As part of the Value for Money review, it was recommended that a Policy Advisory Group be established to bring together managers responsible for the development of types of policy across the Department: strategic policy advice, operational policy and service design. The Department’s Executive Team (ET) signed off on the creation of this group in late February, and work is underway to determine the terms of reference for the group.
The aim of bringing all policy activities together under one advisory umbrella is to help create an integrated and collaborative approach to managing the Department’s policy priorities and to ensure policy consistency and cohesiveness.
To ensure that the Department’s policy work is aligned with justice sector wide strategies and supports a single justice sector approach a representative from the Ministry of Justice Policy Group will be invited to attend the Advisory Group discussion sessions.
The establishment of the Policy Advisory Group will help minimise duplication and rework and provide a forum for sharing knowledge and best practice approaches. The group will also ensure a single focus for policy work on the overall strategic direction of the Department.
Corrections helps address drivers of crime
Strengthening partnerships to improve public safety
Corrections is one of several government agencies collaborating to help with a Justice Sector initiative to address the ‘drivers of crime’.
‘Drivers of crime’ refers to the underlying causes of criminal offending. It recognises the growing body of knowledge about the circumstances of people’s lives that contribute to offending and victimisation.
The factors identified as the underlying drivers of crime are not new or surprising. They represent the most difficult problems in our society today: family dysfunction, poverty, child maltreatment, poor educational achievement, harmful drinking and drug use, poor mental health, severe behavioural problems amongst children and young people and the intergenerational transmission of criminal behaviour.
The four priority areas for cross-government action on addressing these factors have been identified as:
- antenatal, maternity, and early parenting support
- programmes to address behavioural problems in young children
- reducing the harm caused by alcohol misuse and abuse
- alternative approaches to managing low-level offenders and offering pathways out of offending.
Corrections is contributing to two of the priority areas; alcohol treatment services and managing low-level offenders. Both workstreams will more directly produce positive outcomes for Corrections by helping to divert offenders from a life of crime as well as offering a way out for repeat offenders.
“For the alcohol workstream we are working with the Ministries of Justice, Health and Transport,” says Senior Policy Adviser Kirsty Ruddlesden.
“We are investigating ways to improve access to addiction assessment and treatment services for people at all points in the criminal justice system; from intoxicated people in Police custody who have a history of problematic alcohol use, to offenders on community-based sentences who misuse or abuse alcohol, to parolees with identified alcohol treatment needs requiring community treatment services upon release from prison.”
The workstream on managing low-level offenders includes looking at options to prioritise young adult low-level offenders within existing education, employment, and social schemes.
“Another example is providing pathways for disqualified drivers to get their licences back rather than a situation where an offender drives while disqualified and ends up with another prison sentence,” says Policy Manager Brendan Gage.
“It’s also difficult to define a ‘low-level’ offender. A young person living on the edges of crime is sometimes at a high risk of quite serious offending.”
Case by case - sentences explained
This column profiles a typical offender and introduces you to the processes we follow to manage their sentence.
Age: 20 years old
Occupation: Apprentice panel-beater
Offence: Drunk and disorderly, verbally abusing a police officer
Sentence: 40 hours of community work
Managed by: Tristram Street Community Work Centre, Hamilton.
Situation: Ricky lives with his parents in Hamilton, but he’s been spending a lot of time at his girlfriend’s as she’s recently had their baby. The baby has had some health problems and Ricky’s been stressed about this. This is the second time Ricky’s had a community work sentence – the first was for possession of marijuana.
The Corrections Team
Ricky’s sentence of 40 hours of community work has brought him into contact with:
Probation Officer Leona Cowan
Leona was Duty Officer when Ricky called in to report for his community work sentence. She assessed his case based on his previous history, including his good compliance with his previous sentence, which he served helping at a local Salvation Army store.
Considering all the information, Leona recommended Ricky serve his sentence on an agency placement again.
Senior Community Work Supervisor Mike McConnell
Mike inducted Ricky into his community work at the Salvation Army store, explaining what he will have to do and how he must behave. He also explained that Ricky must let the Salvation Army and Mike know if he can’t attend for some reason.
The Salvation Army store rang Mike when Ricky failed to report in one day. Mike called Ricky who explained that his baby had been sick. Mike reminded him he needs to contact both the Salvation Army and Mike if he can’t attend at any time. Mike gave him a verbal warning and one more chance at the Salvation Army store.
However, a week later, Ricky failed to report again. When Mike contacted Ricky he reminded him of the verbal warning and told him to report to the Service Centre next week where he would join a work party. If Ricky failed to report for the work party, Mike warned him he’d face breach action which would mean he’d have to go back to Court (and would likely end up with another conviction on his record).
Service Manager Allen Smith
When Mike removed Ricky from his Salvation Army placement and told him he’d have to join a work party, Ricky complained and asked to speak to the Service Manager.
Ricky made his case to Service Manager Allen, saying his baby had been sick again, but Allen decided Ricky had already had one chance and backed up Mike’s decision.
Community Work Supervisor Warren Smith
Warren is the staff member Ricky now sees when he reports in to join the work party every Tuesday. The work mostly involves clearing gorse and brambles and maintaining nearby walking tracks.
Warren does more than supervise the work. He teaches the offenders the skills they need to do the work. He is also a role model, demonstrating ‘pro-social’ ways of behaving and how to solve work-related problems. Warren motivates the offenders and acknowledges when they’ve done a good day’s work.
Under Warren’s supervision, Ricky worked every Tuesday until his sentence was completed.
* This profile is based on details from several offenders who are serving a sentence of this kind.
Working with offenders in remote areas
Imagine driving to an offender on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Imagine driving for three hours to get there. And when you finally arrive a couple of fierce dogs bare their teeth… Fact or fiction?
“It’s a fact offenders can live in the middle of nowhere,” says Probation Officer Michelle Tichborne-Hailey who manages offenders in rural Gisborne. “The offenders live on farms or in other remote places where they work felling trees in the forest.
“But we are careful to minimise the risks when visiting offenders. When we don’t know the offender or if the road is inaccessible we let our supervisor know where we are at all times.”
Michelle says that when she needs to meet an offender living a few hours’ drive away, she is practical about it and often meets them somewhere halfway.
In the South Island, Senior Probation Officer Paul Watson from Greymouth also manages offenders who live in remote areas. The area covers some 600km, from Karamea to Haast.
“There are some pretty remote places but we never go out unprepared and always take safety measures, such as phoning in at the last point of cell phone coverage and again on the way back as soon as it’s possible.
“The remoteness not only affects probation officers but also community work supervisors. And sometimes it’s just not practical for an offender to have to drive for two hours to report in, especially if you are a disqualified driver,” says Paul.
“We do try to find agencies in remote communities, such as churches. It’s a case of getting creative and thinking of things to do that allow offenders to make reparation in their own community.
“Chopping firewood’s big down here,” says Paul.
Why do we need CPPS service centres?
Ensuring community-based offenders comply with and complete their sentences
Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) manages different sentences and orders imposed by the Courts or the NZ Parole Board.
CPPS works with offenders living in the community to ensure they complete their sentences and address their criminal behaviour.
“There are some direct benefits to the community. Across the country several million hours of free labour are provided each year by supervised offenders serving community work sentences. This may include graffiti removal, site clearance and the upkeep of local community resources including schools and playgrounds,” says CPPS General Manager Katrina Casey.
“And we welcome any suggestions members of the community have for this type of work.”
But why the need to build new centres? In the last three years the number of offenders serving sentences or orders in the community has increased significantly due to a new range of community sentences introduced in October 2007.
“As a result, we are increasing staffing levels to ensure offenders who live in the community are managed appropriately,” says Katrina.
How is a site chosen?
As its name implies, CPPS is based in the community where the offenders, and their families and employers, live. As part of our work, we want to be engaged with local organisations as well as with family/whanau who may provide the positive influences that will make a difference for offenders.
Offender compliance is more likely and public safety more assured when CPPS is located close to where the majority of offenders live.
The process for deciding the area where the new service centre needs to be located is a measured one. It involves examining where offenders live and demographic information about the area, council zoning, street placement and traffic. Analysis of the information identifies where a service centre is needed.
Some concerns raised by the community include:
offenders congregating around the service centres and causing trouble for neighbours
In practice, appointments are made in order to minimise the potential for congregation and offenders are discouraged from doing this. Offenders generally leave as soon as their appointments are over.
the service centre is a magnet for crime
There is no evidence to suggest that crime increases because there is a service centre in the area. This is largely because offenders already live in these communities. If anything, the threat of more crime is likely to be reduced because offenders are being managed closer to where they live.
“Anyone who is concerned about a proposed centre is welcome to visit so they can see what happens at a site and how offenders are managed,” says Katrina.1
Community-based sentences are part of the justice system and it is important that offenders are physically able to comply with the requirements of their sentences.
“We cannot do this without the public’s support. Together, we can make a safer community.”
Invercargill Prison's 100 year history
From gaol, to borstal and prison; Invercargill Prison’s 100 year history is a colourful one. The prison was opened on 16 February 1910 on Liffey Street by then Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward.
From 1910-1914 it was run as a gaol, then in 1915 became a borstal to reform young people through strict discipline and trade training and by the 1930s had earned a world-wide reputation for its innovative methods, including schooling.
The borstal operated until 1979 when the institution was designated a youth prison and in 1988, an adult prison.
All aspects of farming along with trade training on building, metal work, and motor mechanics were taught. The borstal’s catchment area stretched from Invercargill to Palmerston North, so over the years thousands attended “Liffey St College” as it was known locally.
The borstal had a heated swimming pool which was accessible to the public after lock-up and many Invercargill residents learnt to swim there over the years. The pool was demolished in the early 1990s.
Phil Lister, Corrections unofficial historian, worked for 22 years at Invercargill Prison and has spent 15 years documenting the prison records that were discovered in a loft.
“I’ve been contacted numerous times over the years by people looking for their fathers when carnal knowledge of a female under a certain age was an imprisonable offence,” says Phil.
Phil says that Michael Hawkins, Gaoler from 1908 to 1912, believed in teaching the boys a trade and deliberately recruited prison officers who had trades and could teach.
During the time of conscription in WWII, the conscientious objectors who were known to be educated and intelligent people were sent to Invercargill.
“The better educated officers there were more suited to manage the conscientious objectors than in other prisons.”
One of the most famous prisoners in Invercargill Prison was Randall Reginald David Smith in the 1930s. While Randall Smith himself may not have been famous, his case was the centre of attention during the period where rival political parties were divided on capital punishment.
Randall Smith had been convicted of murder and was sent to Invercargill Prison. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison after the Labour Party, who opposed capital punishment, took office in 1935 and commuted all death sentences to life in prison.
In 1941 Randall Smith attempted to escape and badly injured an officer in the attempt. For this offence he was sentenced to be flogged. However, this punishment was also commuted to a term of imprisonment when flogging and whipping were abolished.
When the public heard that this prisoner was a murderer and had been reprieved from a death sentence the outrage became a national political debate until in 1961 the matter was put to a conscience vote. As a consequence, 10 members of the National government voted with the opposition, and capital punishment was removed from the statute book except for treason.
Today, Invercargill Prison can accommodate up to 180 male prisoners and employs 75 staff to manage them. A major upgrade of facilities and security is currently under way.
But behind the walls of the Invercargill Prison we see today is a glimpse of our history and life as it was 100 years ago.
Winds change direction with new learnings
Strengthening partnerships and reducing re-offending in Pacific communities
The Saili Matagi programme, specifically designed for Pacific adult male prisoners serving sentences for offences of a violent or serious nature, has been reviewed and redeveloped.
To make the programme more relevant to Pacific prisoners, course content is emphasised with the use of Pacific cultural protocols and concepts. ‘Saili Matagi’ is a Samoan proverb meaning ‘in search of winds’ describing the need to catch good winds for smooth sailing.
Pacific staff, supported by Matua (elders) from the Pacific community, facilitate and supervise the programme. Piloted at Auckland Prison in 2003 – 04, the programme was launched in the country’s only dedicated Pacific Focus Unit at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in February 2008.
“Since that time new literature and research around Pacific offending has evolved and the programme needed to be updated to reflect this new knowledge,” says National Pacific Adviser Leatuavao Viko Aufaga.
An advisory group was set up last year to support the redevelopment of the programme. As a result, the updated version is a shorter but more intense course; down to 16 weeks from 28 but now runs four times a week instead of the previous three sessions per week. This means Corrections can deliver two full programmes per year and meet more demand for the programme while preserving its therapeutic integrity.
“The new design also has a more Pasifika flavour, with more proverbs, myths and Pacific language,” says Viko.
The alcohol and drug and restorative healing modules have been significantly revised and processes added, or improvements made, to these modules.
Four mornings a week Programme Facilitator Georgina Apii and her co-facilitator encourage the participants to challenge the beliefs they have that support violence. These sessions take place in the prison’s onsite traditional fale (meeting house).
“For me, the relationship between the participants and the programme facilitators is so important. Having the opportunity to work with the offenders in a more culturally appropriate manner, reinforces their commitment to address their offending related core beliefs,” says Georgina.
“The key to the success of the programme continues to be in the therapeutic techniques used which match the offenders’ learning styles and the clinical techniques and delivery of the content which engages interest and motivates the participants to respond,” says Gordon Sinclair, National Manager Programme Policy and Practice.
“This continues to be a highly specialised programme, meeting a need for groups of offenders who have identified cultural as well as rehabilitative needs.”
The updated version of the programme is in its final approval stages and the first delivery of the new-look programme is expected to be in May 2010.
Finally, to the advisory group who guided the redevelopment of Saili Matagi.
‘O le ala i le pule o le tautua, Malo ‘aupito’. The pathway to leadership is through service, your contribution is acknowledged.
What works for women?
By David Riley, Chief Adviser Psychological Services
The last two decades have seen a proliferation of studies attesting to the effectiveness of providing programmes aimed at reducing re-offending, and a general consensus has emerged that appropriately designed programmes targeting criminogenic factors in high risk offenders yield worthwhile results. To date, much of this research has focused on the types of programme which are most effective, the factors which should be targeted to give the best result, and the match between intensity of service and risk level of the offender.
In contrast, to date much less investigation has been undertaken in relation to the specific treatment requirements of sub types of offenders, be they ethnic minorities, those who commit specific types of crime (apart from sex offenders) and the treatment needs of women offenders.
Modern approaches to treating offenders rest on research which has mainly been conducted in North America, and which has identified those factors associated with greater risk of re-offending across large samples of primarily male offenders. Assessment tools evaluate an individual’s level of risk across these factors, and these assessments guide allocation to programmes as well as guiding the specific areas within each individual which should be the focus for intervention.
Unfortunately, the degree to which this extensive knowledge base can be generalised to women offenders is unknown, and many writers have argued that there are specific areas which are important for women, both in terms of engaging them in the treatment process, and also issues specific to women which need to be resolved in order for their successful reintegration back into the community.
In a recent publication, Jonathan Martin and colleagues1 sought to shed some light on the important area of what works for women offenders by evaluating those factors which predicted programme completion for male and female offenders referred to accredited programmes in the community. Utilising a comprehensive electronic database in which criminogenic factors for each offender were systematically assessed, they examined the completion rates for men and women entering accredited programmes, together with the degree to which those criminogenic factors predicted successful programme completion. Successful programme completion, in this study, was in fact a proxy variable for treatment success as a number of studies have indicated the critical importance of programme completion in the criminal justice area.
Analysis of a large number of cases indicated a significantly higher completion rate for men than for women. Additionally, many more items relating to criminogenic factors in the database predicted successful programme completion for men than for women, possibly reflecting the emphasis in the research on the male offender. While a number of factors in the database did predict programme completion rates for women, 15 factors predicted completion only for women.
The authors conclude that their findings refute the “what works” supposition that the impact of need is relatively interchangeable for women and men, and that they support the “gender responsive” position that men and women should be considered differentially.
1 Martin J. et al (2009), What Works For Women? A Comparison of Community-Based General Offending Programme Completion, British Journal of Criminology, 49, 879-899.
On 26 February 2010, I was very pleased to launch a $3.6 million package of safety equipment and training designed to make corrections officers safer at work.
Staff safety is my greatest concern. Corrections staff deal with some of the most difficult and often dangerous people.
Each day I receive a report of any assaults on corrections staff that have happened in the previous 24 hours.
Thankfully, most are minor and staff members are able to resume work straight away.
Occasionally an assault will take place that is more serious. As Minister, I can tell you there are few things worse than learning one of our staff has been seriously hurt at work.
It also reminds us that while risk will always be a part of this profession, it is my wish that we reduce the level of risk as much as possible.
Therefore, it is important that staff are trained and equipped to keep themselves safe.
The new safety measures will ensure that corrections officers have the training and the equipment to manage dangerous situations and to prevent them from arising in the first place.
New safety equipment will be provided to staff for use when required. The equipment includes stab proof vests for use in situations which are potentially dangerous. Batons will be available for staff specifically trained in their use.
Spit hoods can be used on prisoners who spit, or have a history of spitting, to protect staff from disease and the indignity of being spat on. And pepper spray will be trialled by trained staff for one year.
It is very important to recognise though that safety equipment only goes part of the way in protecting staff. In most cases a corrections officer’s best tools for keeping themselves safe are their wits and their training.
Corrections officers are trained in active management of prisoners. Active management is about ensuring that day-in, day-out, corrections officers relate to prisoners in ways which reduce the potential for dangerous incidents to occur.
However, dangerous incidents are an inevitable part of prison life.
Nearly one third of the country’s 3,500 corrections officers have already received additional training in how to manage incidents when they do occur and the remainder will do so by the end of the year. Tactical communication and de-escalation techniques training will help officers to manage incidents and will hopefully see prisoners “talked down” from dangerous situations. I have already heard of examples where staff have put their training into practice with great success.
Teamed with active management, this training will mean that the safety equipment will only need to be used as a last resort.
I hope we start to see consistently lower numbers of injuries as staff make use of the new safety equipment and training.
Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections
Staff at Christchurch Men’s Prison once again thwarted an attempt to smuggle cannabis into the prison inside a tennis ball. Corrections officers found the ball wrapped in black tape and lodged in some unit guttering; it had 20g of cannabis packed inside. Prison Manager John Roper says that last year there were two other failed attempts to sneak drugs into the prison inside a tennis ball. “This is another example of the vigilance of our staff in reducing drug availability for prisoners. I am very proud of their ongoing efforts,” he says.
One out, two in?Two visitors to Waikeria Prison were arrested for carrying drugs when they arrived to pick up a prisoner who was being released. Waikeria South Prison Manager Kevin Smith says the two were searched in the visitor carpark, which is on prison grounds. “Before coming on site there are large signs that clearly state that drugs are prohibited and that visitors and their vehicles can be searched,” he says. “What should have been a happy occasion for these two people to pick up a friend being released was ruined by their foolishness in thinking they could bring drugs on-site.”
Landscaping transforms school grounds
Blockhouse Bay Intermediate School in Auckland has been benefiting from a community work landscaping project which has enhanced the grounds considerably.
“The grounds have been transformed completely from when we started,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Stephen D’Souza.
For the past seven years groups of offenders serving sentences of community work have spent Saturdays clearing the invasive kikuyu grass, planting thousands of trees and reshaping the school’s pathways. What was wasteland has been developed into additional play areas or attractive planted areas.
The school’s goal has been to plant and landscape about a hectare into a patch of native bush which will encourage native birds back into the city. The bush has 600 metres of walkway and is planted with around 8,000 trees.
School Principal Colin Andrews agrees. “I’m very grateful to the Corrections Department for the loyalty they have shown to this project. The workers have been excellent and the quality of work outstanding!”
A bottomless pit of work
A derelict quarry in Palmerston North is being transformed into a recreational area of wetlands, native reserve and walkways thanks to the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers and offenders serving sentences of community work.
Initial work at Pit Park started in 2007 involving planting natives on the slopes of the quarry to stabilise the banks. After clearing scrub and blackberry bushes 500 holes were dug for the first planting programme.
“All the holes had to be broken out of shale and innumerable barrow loads of soil were dropped near the holes for the planting,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Graham Allanson. “It’s a huge project which will keep us going for another five years. The weeding and maintenance is an on-going task.”
Graham estimates the offenders have dug in excess of 1,500 holes for planting and moved 100 cu/m of mulch around an acre of land – totalling 10,000 hours of labour.
“The biggest challenge for us has been ensuring that the young people know the difference between the plants and the weeds we need removed. Weeding has had its interesting moments! In saying that, I do know that some of the young people have developed a sense of ownership over the space and take a real interest in the progress of the work,” says Chair of the Pit Park Committee Marise Clark.