Corrections News May-Jun 2011
Chief Executive's comment
I’m just one of the 8000 staff in the Department of Corrections who get up each day and go to work with New Zealand’s most difficult and challenging citizens. Each of us have a part to play in keeping New Zealand safe and to do our job well we must be disciplined in our planning, courageous in our decision making and passionate in our belief that we can change lives.
Lately I have turned my focus to the future direction of Corrections – where we want to go and how we want to improve. I came into an organisation that was performing well and I intend to build on this platform to set clear priorities and expectations that we must meet to be successful for all New Zealanders.
This month I had the opportunity to set out our plans with managers and staff. You will see a lot more about Corrections’ focus on “creating lasting change” over the coming months, but I’d like to touch briefly on our four key priorities here:
- Public safety
- Reducing re-offending
- Better public value
If we keep these priorities front of mind we can make a real difference to the people and communities we serve. It’s not always going to be easy but by bringing the organisation together as One Team and always placing offenders at the centre of our effort and their victims at the centre of our concern, we will keep on the path to being a world-class Corrections service.
This is an exciting time for Corrections and I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve over the next 12 months and beyond.
New Zealand prisons Smokefree
From 1 July 2011, New Zealand prisons will be smokefree environments. This means all tobacco, lighters and matches are banned from prisons and prisoners are not permitted to smoke anywhere on prison premises.
Prisoners are also prohibited from smoking when working off site and will be searched for cigarettes and smoking relating items, as is done with other contraband, upon their return to prison.
Smoking in prison presents a very real health and safety risk to staff. While the key rationale for the ban is to increase the health and safety of staff, a substantial number of incidents in prisons involved prisoners using cigarette lighters or matches to start fires, trigger smoke detectors, smoke illicit drugs and make weapons that can be used against our staff and other prisoners. The ban puts a stop to this kind of destructive behaviour.
The Department had a 12-month lead in period to prepare for the implementation of smokefree prisons, and during this time a number of positive initiatives were introduced to help ensure a smooth transition to the change.
The Department has been working very closely with The Quit Group and the Ministry of Health to assist staff and prisoners to quit smoking, and we have also consulted with jurisdictions overseas that have adopted the policy.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy is being offered to all prison staff and prisoners free of charge. Prisoners also have access to the 0800 Quitline for further support.
Smoking bans exist in other secure institutions in New Zealand, including secure mental health facilities. All youth units in New Zealand prisons have already banned smoking. Over half of corrections departments in the US have total smoking bans in place.
Spick and span
The Cambridge Community House is looking spick and span thanks to a work party from Waikeria Prison’s Maori Focus Unit.
They renovated, painted and landscaped and their work was so appreciated by the Community House staff that they were invited to the opening of the new building on 7 February.
The prisoners were the main speakers at the powhiri, sang waiata and presented the Community House with a wood carving.
“They came up with a name for the building Te Whare Atawhai and presented us with a carving which looks amazing,” says an appreciative Nicki de Reus (Cambridge Community House Manager).
Assault against a corrections officer an aggravating factor in sentencing.
The Sentencing (Aggravating Factors) Amendment Bill will add to the aggravating factors set out in Section nine of the Sentencing Act.
When a person is convicted, a judge takes into account a number of factors when deciding the appropriate sentence.
Some factors are mitigating (eg an early guilty plea may reduce a sentence) and others are aggravating (eg an offence committed on bail may increase the length of sentence or the severity – imprisonment rather than Community Detention).
The Bill proposes that any assault against corrections officers acting in the course of their duty will be an aggravating factor to be considered at sentencing.
This endeavours to lessen the risk of attack that corrections officers face.
It sends a signal to potential offenders that more severe and longer penalties will be imposed by courts where corrections officers are assaulted.
The Minister said in Parliament that attacks on police and corrections officers, who are upholders of the law and protectors of the public, should be explicitly denounced in legislation. An attack on a police or corrections officer represents an attack on the community and on the rule of law.
The Bill passed the first reading in Parliament in April and has been referred to the Law and Order Select Committee.
Submissions to the Select Committee from the general public close on 26 May.
Whare Oranga Ake building underway
Construction of the Whare Oranga Ake facilities at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and Spring Hill Corrections Facility is underway and the community partners the Department will work with have begun designing the reintegrative services.
The Whare Oranga Ake facilities are a new initiative to reduce re-offending in three major ways:
- They will be underpinned by kaupapa Maori, incorporating Maori practices, language and values through day-to-day activities.
- There will be a big emphasis on reintegration services for the prisoners who will be low risk and nearing the end of their sentence.
- Skilled Maori community service providers will lead the approach and will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the facilities.
The preferred providers are Raukura Waikato Social Services as the lead agency for Te Ope Koiora at Spring Hill, and Choices Health and Community Services in partnership with Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc and Rourou Consultancy Trust at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison.
In both areas mana whenua (Ngati Naho and Ngati Poporo) also play a vital role in the success of Whare Oranga Ake.
Their focus will be on assisting prisoners to reconnect with their whanau and to assist them to gain employment and training, to find accommodation on release and to improve wider family and social relationships.
“This new initiative enables us to take a creative approach to the way we work with our community partners. We will work with them in the design of reintegration services. As a matter of consistency with tikanga and in recognition of the importance of iwi and hapu we will engage with mana whenua during this phase of the project too.
The kaupapa, tikanga and kawa will be that of the locals,” says Whare Oranga Ake Project Leader Jeanette Harris.
The prisoners will reside in four-bedroom houses located outside the perimeter of the prison. Within a kaupapa Maori environment they will assume all the responsibilities of daily living (shopping, preparing meals, general housework, etc).
PLB Construction Limited has the contract to construct the accommodation buildings and Mackersey Construction is constructing the community buildings where programmes and meetings are held.
An added benefit to Corrections is PLB has provided the opportunity for prisoners to do some of the construction work of the accommodation buildings at Spring Hill.
“About 20 prisoners are well underway building between four to six of the eight houses at Spring Hill and they will be finished by mid-May. These are transportable homes being built inside the prison and will be transported by truck to their new location. The prisoners are doing all the carpentry, plastering, painting, plumbing and electrics and will be completing the relevant NZQA standards along the way,” says CIE Timber Manager Gavin Houston.
“Project team members and prison staff have been interviewing prisoners who are interested and who may be suitable for a place. We have given informal presentations to prisoners about the programme content and what the facilities will be like,” says Neil Campbell, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services Project Manager.
“We are putting together a list of eligible prisoners for the providers who will make the final selection of which prisoners will get a place.”
To be eligible for a place in Whare Oranga Ake prisoners will:
- have a minimum security classification (and be older than 25 years and not serving a sentence for a child sex offence)
- have three to six months sentence left to serve
- have completed all rehabilitation programmes as part of their offender plans
- agree to abide by the Kaupapa Maori philosophy
- be motivated to succeed in Whare Oranga Ake
- be drug free
- not be engaged with any gang-related activity.
Both 16-bed facilities will be operational by July 2011, with plans for both to expand to 32 beds by 2012.
Prisoners and prison staff will soon be stubbing out their cigarettes as all New Zealand prisons become smokefree. The ban comes into effect in July 2011, and will prohibit prisoners, staff and visitors from smoking anywhere in the prison.
Smoking-related items, such as tobacco, lighters and matches will no longer be allowed to be brought in or used within the secure perimeter fence line.
At the moment, prisoners are able to smoke in their cells and in outside areas. Our staff have to breathe in second-hand smoke and toxins at levels up to 12 times higher than exists in the homes of smokers. Corrections officers are among the only workers in New Zealand who still have to put up with the risk of second-hand smoke in their workplace.
Prisoners have also mis-used matches and lighters to start fires, and melt toothbrushes and other items to make dangerous weapons that can place other prisoners and staff at risk.
There have been around 50 incidents of fire or arson in New Zealand prisons in the last year.
Having smokefree prisons will reduce the risk of harm caused by breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke and the risks associated with prisoner lit fires.
Corrections has managed a focused 12-month build-up campaign that provides practical help, information and education in the lead-up to the ban.
This has seen a number of positive initiatives including free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and access to the Quitline 0800 number.
Over 2000 prisoners have started using NRT patches and lozenges. NRT will continue to be available to prisoners after the commencement of the smokefree prison policy.
Voluntary smokefree units and wings have already been established and prisons have had no trouble filling them.
Alternative recreational activities such as sports days, increased use of gym facilities and yoga have also been popular, with a focus on helping people move away from smoking and encouraging them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Latest milestone expands CPS Integrated Practice Framework to Supervision Sentences
Maintaining sentence and order integrity is a key focus in the latest milestone for the Community Probation Services Change Programme.
For probation officers managing offenders in the community, that means being mindful of the legislative intent of each sentence or order – as well as considering each offender’s likelihood of re-offending and risk of causing harm to others.
“By ensuring we focus on all these things we will enhance our ability to improve public safety,” says General Manager Katrina Casey.
Since its launch in 2009, the Change Programme has progressively implemented a new Integrated Practice Framework (IPF) to guide probation officers in managing offenders in the community.
The IPF sets out mandatory standards specific to each sentence or order which probation officers must meet with all offenders.
It supports a greater focus on high risk offenders by providing a supported decision framework to inform their professional judgement, a knowledge bank of practice guidance, and all the related tools and processes they need to do their work.
On 1 June, staff will implement the fourth version of the new IPF. Three quarters of all probation officers are now trained to work within the IPF and apply new risk assessment tools associated with it.
The number of offenders managed under the IPF will more than double to around 19,000 at any one time. That’s all offenders on parole, release on conditions, home detention, post detention conditions, extended supervision and, from 1 June, intensive supervision and supervision.
Another recent milestone for the Change Programme was the launch on 11 April of the new CPS Practice Centre. As the online home of the IPF, it gives staff instant access to information and tools to support their use of professional judgement in managing offenders.
The next major milestone is 1 November when the IPF will expand to cover the provision of pre-sentence reports, information and advice to court.
Blue is the new green
From the middle of this year, the familiar sight of the khaki-clad corrections officer will disappear. Corrections’ custodial staff will be wearing smart new blue uniforms designed to cater to their many and varied duties.
The new uniform will be more comfortable, practical and professional, while the colour – steel blue – has been specifically chosen to align Corrections more closely with the wider justice sector including police, the fire service and customs.
Ironically, the khaki uniform was originally introduced in 1977 after New Zealand Police changed to a blue uniform and claimed exclusive rights to that colour.
Blue uniforms for prison guards date right back to the early decades of New Zealand’s colonial history.
In 1855 New Zealand stopped sentencing offenders to penal servitude and transporting them to Australia. This led to us building and staffing our own prisons, and with staff came the need for a uniform.
Like the guards themselves, many of the uniforms were ex-military. At larger gaols they wore a militia dark blue hat, tunic, trousers and braces, while staff in smaller gaols were often provided with little more than a hat!
In 1881 Inspector of Prisons Captain Arthur Hume was tasked with unifying the prisons, which had been run separately in each province. As Hume also served as Commissioner of Police and head of the New Zealand Home Defence Forces, it comes as no surprise that he decided to use the same dark blue/black fabric to make uniforms for all the services. Hume’s dark blue/black greatcoat, tunic, trousers, blue shirt (with separate collar) and buckle belt formed the basis of prison uniforms for more than 80 years.
The khaki uniform made its debut after the second world war when prison officers supervising work parties and borstal trade training wore green uniforms made from surplus ex-army material. Staff received two uniforms, the dress blue for custodial duties and khaki for work parties. When the uniform needed to be changed in 1977, it made sense to go with the khaki as it was already in use.
With history coming full-circle, the blue uniform is back.
There are two uniform types: a more casual residential uniform for prison staff whose duties are mainly unit-based and who deal with prisoners on a daily basis, and a formal non-residential uniform for those who deal with outside agencies and the general public on a daily basis.
Managers will wear the non-residential uniform to strengthen the bond and identity across Prison Services.
Corrections supporting Christchurch's recovery
Since the Christchurch earthquake in February, Corrections has brought its core services in Christchurch together to ensure we can keep our normal services running while supporting our staff and the local community.
Corrections has prepared thousands of meals for people at the welfare centres, while our prison gardens have provided daily vegetable packs to the Salvation Army and community kitchens. Offenders on community work have also been helping clean up the city.
Prisoners at Christchurch Men’s Prison have been working seven days a week in the welding workshop, mending big metal bins for the clean-up effort. Corrections Inmate Employment Manager Rob McNicol says the bin welding work has increased significantly since the earthquake.
“We’re putting in the extra hours, but everyone knows it’s for the earthquake so they’ve been doing it without a grumble.”
Several of Corrections’ facilities remain closed, although prisons are operating as usual.
For more information on how Corrections is responding to the Christchurch earthquake, visit www.corrections.govt.nz
New service centres built for a purpose
Three new Community Probation Services (CPS) centres are opening.
Local iwi formally lifted the tapu at a dawn ceremony to hand over a site in Flaxmere for the new Service Centre. The formal opening of the centre was attended by Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins, iwi leaders and CPS staff.
Opposition to an initial proposed site caused the Department to withdraw its proposal and seek an alternate and more suitable site.
“Agreement to this alternative site was all part of the journey,” says Area Manager George Henderson, who spoke of a turnaround within the local community.
“We now have a relationship that is the best it’s ever been here thanks to the close working relationship formed within the local community.”
The service centre is on the western side of Flaxmere and has been fully operational since the beginning of April.
Meanwhile, in late April, three teams (27 staff) moved into a purpose-built facility in Pukekohe.
The new building replaces outdated premises and features a dedicated space for rehabilitation and reintegration intervention programmes to take place.
Area Manager Darius Fagan said staff were really excited about moving into the beautiful building. “The community engagement process was positive,” says Darius.
A dawn blessing and opening, involving local iwi and staff took place on 2 May which was the first day of work at the new centre.
An official opening will take place at a later date.
Gisborne offenders will also report to a new building from late May – further up Kahutia Street from the original site which became too small.
The local community has been positive, with the initial four oppositions against the proposal recalling their submissions after a pre-hearing meeting to agree on mitigation strategies.
The new CPS building has the full support of local iwi.
“We aim to be good neighbours and to become a positive part of the community,” says George Henderson.
The advantage of service centres being based within the local community means offenders are more easily able and willing to engage in their sentence management.
Case managers: Taking offender rehabilitation to the next level
Tyson*, a prisoner at Tongariro/Rangipo Prison in his late twenties, has lost touch with his ex-partner and their two small children. He wants to be involved in the kids’ lives, and has given his ex-mother-in-law’s phone number to his new Case Manager Katrina Quinlan in the hope she can make contact and let the children’s current caregivers know their dad wants to hear from them.
Katrina’s case manager role is a new one at Corrections, in conjunction with our new case management system going ‘live’ on 1 April.
Prisoners throughout the country are now being gradually phased across to the new system.
Helping reunite Tyson with his whanau is just one thing Katrina will do to support him to become a better member of society.
Her role is an important part of Corrections’ increased emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration.
“My new case manager role lets me focus on what the prisoners in my caseload need to rehabilitate themselves, from the time they come to prison to their reintegration back into society.
“My job includes assessing new prisoners, working with them to create a rehabilitation plan, monitoring them, and going out to the prison units to visit them,” says Katrina.
“There’s no custodial aspect to my role; I don’t wear a uniform. I work closely with corrections officers, probation officers, and other Corrections staff, but my sole emphasis is on helping prisoners get the opportunities they need to turn their lives around.”
Case managers will work with each prisoner to create an offender plan that will include which interventions the prisoner should do (such as a drug and alcohol programme, or a Maori therapeutic programme), work or education opportunities, and activities to address other needs such as health or reintegration needs.
Case managers will have direct support from principal case managers who will check the rehabilitation and release plans the case managers write, be available to discuss issues, and recommend programmes or opportunities if they think there are any gaps.
Principal case managers will also directly manage high risk or high profile prisoners.
General Manager of Reintegration and Reintegration Services Alison Thom says the new case management approach is about making sure Corrections does ‘the right thing with the right offender at the right time.’
“It’s also about simplifying the system. In the past an offender might have up to six different people all looking after aspects of their rehabilitation. There might have been a sentence planner, a case officer, a social worker, a reintegration worker – to name just a few.
“The case management system simplifies matters for everyone since one person, the case manager, now has an overview of all that prisoner’s rehabilitation and reintegration needs,” says Alison.
The role is expected to develop as case managers discover in practice what works and how the role needs to be strengthened.
*Not his real name.
Corrections staff give their Christchurch mates a day
More than $160,000 is being donated from Department of Corrections staff to their colleagues in Christchurch to help them recover from the Christchurch earthquake.
The Department’s ‘Give Your Mates A Day’ Trust, which was launched in March after the earthquake, has provided a novel opportunity for staff to voluntarily donate a day’s leave to Christchurch based staff.
“For each day’s leave that a staff member donates, the Department is paying out the net dollar value of that leave and placing that money into the Trust for our staff in Christchurch,” says Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith.
“While the total number of leave days donated is still being processed, 946 employees have so far donated a day, resulting in $160,400 being placed into the Trust to be spread equitably to Christchurch Corrections staff.
“The idea came from a number of staff who wanted to find practical ways to help. It was simply another way for people to help if they wanted to.
“Many staff in Christchurch have faced real hardship following the earthquake, including a number who have lost their homes. Despite this, they continued to report for duty and work to keep the community safe.
“The Department of Corrections is doing everything it can to support staff and the rest of the Christchurch community in their recovery efforts after the earthquake. Staff will always be our number one priority and the generosity and goodwill of staff who have donated leave show just how far we will go to support our colleagues,” says Ray Smith.
The vigilance of CIE instructors at Spring Hill Corrections Facility was rewarded two days in a row when they discovered four bottles of tattoo ink one day and the following day over 100 grams of cannabis.
They were alerted to the possible presence of these items by intelligence sources and suspicious behaviour by the prisoners.
Staff at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison were disheartened to discover 21 grams of cannabis on a 14-year old visitor.
They were conducting routine random searches of vehicles and visitors entering the prison when they saw a young boy accompanied by a woman, walking onto prison grounds.
They asked the pair to follow them to the search area for a routine drug dog search. The woman became abusive and refused to comply with their request.
Despite her behaviour, staff were able to successfully conduct the search, during which the drug dog indicated that drugs were concealed in the boy’s shoes.
Staff found a package in black tape containing 21 grams of cannabis leaf concealed in his left shoe.
Police were informed and arrived very shortly afterwards. They arrested the youth and took him, the drugs, and his shoes, to the local Police station.
The female visitor was issued with an exclusion notice banning her from entering the prison grounds for twelve months.
Know something about a crime but want to remain anonymous? Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
New Zealand was a safer place in 2010.
Crime statistics for the year showed that crime per head of population fell 6.7 per cent, compared to a 3.6 per cent increase in 2009.
There are many factors that influence the levels of crime in the community.
A determined effort by Police to crack down on criminals is certainly a big factor.
No-nonsense policy that sends a strong message that crime will not be tolerated is another.
But perhaps one factor that often doesn’t get a lot of attention is the role of the people who work for the Department of Corrections.
We shouldn’t underestimate how important their role is in creating safer communities.
Every day corrections officers ensure that some of the country’s most difficult and dangerous people are held securely so they cannot harm others in the community.
Probation officers manage thousands of offenders who are repaying their debt to society through community-based sentences. They help released offenders reintegrate into life outside the wire.
Custodial staff help prisoners who want to turn their lives around beat drug and alcohol addiction, gain an education, overcome personal problems and gain skills that will make it easier for them to find work upon release.
Rehabilitation and work training are the keys to lowering crime and reducing our prison populations.
The new short-term drug treatment courses at Otago and Auckland are starting to make a difference to offenders.
A total of 112 offenders have graduated from the course at Otago Corrections Facility, while 71 offenders have entered into the Auckland Prison Drug Treatment Unit since it opened in October 2010.
If prisoners are to overcome their addictions, it’s vital that we keep drugs and contraband out of our prisons.
I’m delighted that positive random drug test results are sitting at an all time low of 6 per cent as at 1 April 2011. This is down from 10 per cent last year.
While the rates of reported crime were lower in 2010 than in 2009, we cannot rest on our laurels.
Lower crime and safer communities require ongoing effort from all our law enforcement and justice agencies.
Minister of Corrections
Unlocking prisoner health services
A one-day Prison Health Services seminar aimed at profiling the health needs of prisoners and fostering better linkages with the providers of primary healthcare within the community was held in March.
A number of senior clinicians from the health sector presented at the seminar, which was held at the Auckland City Hospital Clinical Education Centre.
The seminar was attended by 140 clinicians from around the country and a number of positive initiatives were discussed, particularly in terms of the transition of prisoners to the community.
“To provide effective primary health care to the pre, interim and post prison population there need to be strong links and communication between the different health agencies. These include District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations,” says National Health Services Clinical Leader Debbie Gell.
“The aim of the seminar was to increase understanding by the wider health sector about how we manage health needs in a prison environment and the high needs of this particular population. This allows us to develop links and possible joint programmes to build a stronger health service for prisoners.”
Following the seminar, the Auckland District Health Board has expressed an interest in developing a process for the transfer of clinical information between prisons and their acute care area.
Procare, the largest Primary Health Organisation in the Auckland metro area, wants to develop a small pilot where they assist with enrolling prisoners in a Primary Health Organisation pre-release and ensure the first contacts are made to help with a smooth transition process into the community.
Procare’s Community Health Operations Manager, Carmel Vyas, says the day was very informative and provided “a vision for a more integrated working relationship with primary health in the wider community.”
The Department is holding another clinical seminar on 29 June in Wellington.
New Zealand's newest prison buildings open
After two years of construction the country’s newest prison buildings have been officially opened.
On 30 March 2011, Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins unveiled a plaque and addressed a group of invited guests and media in a ceremony in the new gatehouse.
Built on the Department’s land beside the historic Mt Eden Prison, the two new multi-storey prisoner accommodation blocks, visits centre and gatehouse will replace the facilities currently provided in the old prison.
The new buildings will be combined with Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) and run as a single, integrated prison called Mount Eden Corrections Facility (MECF).
The new facility will be operated by the Department’s new private contract manager, international service provision company Serco.
The newly constructed buildings were handed over to Serco at midnight on 31 March. ACRP was handed over at the start of May and became the first operational section of MECF.
The new facility will be fully operational under Serco management by August.
As part of this process, the old Mt Eden Prison will be emptied of prisoners.
Serco has been appointed to run MECF for six years with an option to extend for a further four years.
The contract with Serco sets out a range of performance standards and key performance indicators designed to encourage innovation and sharing of new ideas across the New Zealand prison network.
In a global first in a remand setting, the partnership between Serco and the Department will measure performance based on reductions in re-offending from the third year of the contract onwards.
The old Mt Eden Prison is an important historic building and cannot be demolished. No decision has been made on the prison’s long-term future.
In the interim, once empty, the prison will be cleaned and moth-balled. This will provide spare capacity in the national prison network in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.