Corrections News Jan-Feb 2013
Chief Executive's comment
The holiday season is a welcome reminder of just how lucky we are to be living in New Zealand – sun, long, lazy days, barbeques, backyard cricket. Sadly, at Corrections we see far too much of the seamy side of life, so it’s important for us to make the most of those times that make this place special.
I hope that 2013 is promising to be a great year for you. I know it certainly promises to be a good year at Corrections as we take significant headway in our goal to reduce re-offending by 25% by 2017.
Let me begin this year by welcoming our 2,500 volunteers to Corrections News. Your commitment and compassion is much appreciated, not just by those who you help each day, but by me and all those who see the positive work you do both in prison and the community.
This year we’ll work with over 69,000 offenders in the community and 19,000 people in prison. For some of them, their time with us will be a one-off, their offence being the result of a rash decision or stupid mistake. For others, this will be yet another sentence in a long ife of crime. Our challenge for 2013 is to meet the needs of both these groups of people. Naturally, the toughest job is rehabilitating the repeat offenders, but the return is well worth the effort. If we can stop 25% of people going on to commit another crime, then by 2017 there will be 600 fewer people returning to prison, 4,000 fewer people being reconvicted on community offences and 18,500 fewer victims.
This year we will concentrate on embedding our reducing re-offending activities. More people will have access to drug and alcohol treatment. We’ll improve and expand our rehabilitation services so that more offenders can access the help they need. Our frontline
probation and prison staff will be focusing on making every contact they have with an offender count. We’ll work closely with mployers and industry to support people into work; and support iwi and community groups to provide new reintegration programmes to give prisoners a better chance at a crime-free life when they leave prison.
Working with people who have knowledge and expertise that can help us improve the work we do will be crucial for us in 2013. I’m looking forward to a year where we work closely with those outside Corrections who have invaluable advice and support to offer us. I hope you will be part of this.
Here’s to a terrific year!
Dirty hands and green thumbs
Community Work Supervisor Brendan Aston and his teams of offenders on community work sentences have been getting their hands dirty at the Havelock Community Garden – with luxuriant results.
“Brendan has always been most obliging and has gone out of his way to assist us,” says Community Garden Manager Ian Cameron.
“All the teams and supervisors sent out have impressed with their positive attitudes and willingness to make the most of their time in
The teams have built raised garden beds and a shed, mixed compost and other garden tasks. They also salvaged some materials from the tip to keep costs down.
All vegetables grown in the garden are collected by the Age Care worker in Havelock and distributed to 26 older clients each week.
International award for Probation Change Programme
Late last year Corrections received the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) Community Corrections Award for our Community Probation Change Programme.
Director Policy and Research Jane von Dadelszen collected the award on behalf of the Department at the ICPA conference in Mexico City in November 2012.
“Winning an ICPA Award is recognition of something very special. ICPA are holding our probation team up as a model for the international corrections community – and that’s something to be very proud of,” says Jane.
Chief Probation Officer Astrid Kalders, whose name appears on the award, was quick to give credit to everyone involved.
“The names of all frontline staff and managers should be engraved on this award. We set out to transform practice, and after three
years of really hard work we did it. We’ve transformed ourselves; we’re now in an excellent place to transform offenders,” she says.
Other jurisdictions are now very interested in New Zealand’s Probation Change Programme. In particular, delegates highlighted their interest in the collaborative engagement of frontline staff throughout the development and implementation of the programme. The very high success rates that the programme has brought about (i.e. around 98% of mandatory standards are now met for all community-based sentences and orders) also impressed other countries.
ICPA’s internationally-regarded awards programme recognises outstanding progress and best practice by individuals and agencies that support its mission of ‘advancing professional corrections’. Corrections also received a commendation for the smoke-free prisons policy.
Jane was at the conference as a plenary speaker, presenting on the Department’s goal to reduce re-offending by 25 percent by 2017.
ICPA is an association for corrections officials, academics and the private sector, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas, technology, and best practice between countries and between government and academia.
The annual ICPA conference routinely attracts 350-400 delegates from over 60 countries, with most OECD countries sending at least one delegate. The conference is a useful way of establishing and maintaining international contacts on penal and justice matters.
What was the Probation Change Programme?
The Probation Change Programme re-designed frontline practice so staff would be more effective with offenders. Central to the re-design was the introduction of an ‘Integrated Practice Framework’ – a system that guides staff in doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right offender, while meeting all mandatory standards.
The programme changed the way probation officers work – from treating all offenders on the same sentence in the same way – to managing each offender according to the risks and challenges posed by that individual. Since implementing the change programme, probation now meets its mandatory standards 98 percent of the time, a significant – and now internationally recognised – achievement
GPS monitoring update
Corrections has successfully expanded its use of GPS technology to monitor high risk offenders in the community.
At the start of December 2012, Corrections was managing 25 offenders on GPS from Whangarei to Dunedin. More applications to the Parole Board are pending, so numbers are likely to grow to around 40 by February 2013, depending on the outcomes of the application hearings.
Staff around the country have been trained to ensure they are ready to manage offenders on GPS in their area. GPS Monitoring Project Senior Adviser Anna Brocket says staff have taken well to the training, which covers everything from using the GPS equipment to interpreting monitoring reports and the role of the monitoring centre and logistic contractors.
“The key thing everyone needs to understand is that the technology is a tool to monitor whereabouts. It doesn’t stop people from offending but will give probation officers information about where an offender’s been and enable them to ask pertinent questions. This in turn means we can better assess risk and make well-informed decisions about managing them.”
Being monitored has had an interesting effect on some offenders, says Anna.
“We’ve had offenders make the comment that they actually have to think about where they’re going now. GPS is impacting on their thought processes rather than wandering into high risk situations, such as schools, playgrounds and other places they can’t go.
“We make it clear how an offender’s special conditions affect where they can and can’t go so it helps them to do the right thing, as well as allowing us to verify their compliance.”
Whanganui Service Manager Jenny Saywood says a recent case shows how GPS monitoring information alerted probation staff to one offender’s risky behaviour. “The offender was only allowed to go to a particular church with an approved person. It was only because of GPS that we realised he’d gone to church, but not the church he was meant to be going to.”
Further questioning revealed he didn’t go with an approved person, says Jenny. “It gives us a bit more idea of the person’s whereabouts during the day and just how alert we have to be.”
Meanwhile, Corrections is also preparing to use GPS monitoring with prisoners on release to work to increase the opportunity for prisoners who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible. We’re phasing in the new technology at Spring Hill, Hawke’s Bay, Rolleston, and Auckland Region Women’s Prisons. By the end of February we hope to have up to 10 additional prisoners on release to work with
GPS at each of the four sites.
Project Adviser Anna Whittingham says the technology will be used in addition to all the checks and processes already in place to monitor prisoners while they are at work outside the wire.
“GPS gives us detailed information we wouldn’t otherwise have so we can easily check that prisoners stick to their approved route
between work and prison.”
Because the technology can help us mitigate risk, it will also help Corrections to increase the rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities for prisoners who otherwise would not be eligible. This includes younger prisoners who stand to gain the most from training and work opportunities.
Spotlight on education
As part of Corrections’ goal of achieving a 25% reduction in re-offending by 2017, we have made a commitment to increase the levels of education and training available to offenders.
Most offenders have few, or no, qualifications and little work experience. We aim to change that through a new Education Strategy 2012 – 2015.
The strategy outlines the practical steps Corrections will take to strengthen educational leadership, planning, design and quality.
Collaboration is key to the success of the strategy and we are working closely with organisations such as the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, the National Library, the Open Polytechnic, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Workforce Development Limited and The Correspondence School.
The strategy includes the introduction of literacy and numeracy training for prisoners who until now have had limited access to these opportunities, such as people on remand, those serving short sentences, and those with special learning or ESOL (English as a Second Language) needs.
Another area of focus is to expand education services to community-based offenders, to ensure that they have access to basic work and living skills (BWLS) and receive support for education and training.
Several initiatives from the strategy are already up and running, including:
Literacy and numeracy for remand prisoners
We have introduced the ‘Short Gains’ programme to all remand units in the country. The 32-hour course aims to re-engage learners with education, and can be delivered over a four, six or eight week period depending on the needs of the prisoners. It actively engages and motivates learners to build essential numeracy, writing and reading skills. A learner commented: “My brain needs some jump-starting when it comes to maths”.
Work Ready is a programme for remand and short-sentenced prisoners. It gives learners essential skills for the world of work, including modules on workplace skills, communication skills, financial literacy and computer skills. It is running in around half our prisons already and will be introduced to all by 31 March 2013. A learner commented: “It has been some time since I had to apply and interview for a job. I’m looking forward to putting these updated skills to good use in the coming months. Thanks :-)”.
Strengthening education planning
This new pilot programme at Auckland Regional Women’s Corrections Facility aims to improve the way staff assess and plan for offenders’ education and employment needs. It includes a new ‘education and employment pathway tool’ to help staff direct offenders to interventions that meet their needs.
Prisoners as Mentors
This programme has already been successfully piloted in two prisons and is now being introduced throughout the country. The programme gives learners the skills to mentor other learners, and participants reported increased confidence in supporting others in
a range of learning situations including literacy skills. Sixteen prisoners graduated in November 2012, and are now actively engaged as peer mentors across the prison sites.
Key education targets for the next five years include:
Corrections aims to reduce re-offending by 25% by 2017. This is an ambitious goal and we know we can’t do it alone – we need to engage with our partners and stakeholders and start working together better. The regions have been holding many meetings and stakeholder engagement road-shows to kick-start closer working relationships, and there are already many great initiatives going on around the country.
Northern Region highlights
Engaging with Lifeline – From September 2012, prisoners at Northland Region Corrections Facility have been able to phone Lifeline Aotearoa Prison Helpline at any time to speak to a trained thirdparty if they need support. “We have an excellent working relationship with Corrections,” says Lifeline Addictions and Gambling Specialist Nadine Winter. “They’re a fantastic bunch of guys who are very passionate about getting this off the ground. We’ve set up a Memorandum of Understanding and are hoping to roll the pilot over for another three months, and plan to continue this service to prisoners.”
Gang exit strategy – In a trial of Corrections National Gang Exit Strategy, Northland Region Corrections Facility is engaging with local probation and a multi-disciplinary team of stakeholders from organisations such as Whänau Ora providers, Police, MSD, Housing NZ, and local cultural providers including kaitiaki. Operations Support and Movements Manager Dave Pattinson says the team meets to discuss exit plans for individual prisoners who want to leave their gang. “This means anything we do is totally prisoner-centric. By working together we can also provide a seamless transition to the community if the prisoner is released.”
Central Region highlights
Farming and forestry focus – Central has many farming and forestry employers in the region, and offender employment staff have been engaging with major employers, such as CNI Forest Management in Rotorua, asking them how to make offenders more employable and what qualifications they would like. In the Waikato District, if a job vacancy comes up but there’s no suitable Release to Work approved prisoner available, staff at Waikeria Prison have contacted the local probation site in Te Awamutu to find a community-based offender to take the job.
Restart Programme – Relationships Aotearoa has been awarded Corrections Innovation Fund money to run a programme for prisoners approved for parole who are at risk of being violent to their families after release. The Restart Programme will initially help ten prisoners with their reintegrative needs, including preparation for joint parenting, couples therapy, parenting for young parents, and anger management. It is innovative in that it starts either before release, or in the first week of release (typically, interventions for offenders on parole start several weeks after release). The programme will be mainly aimed at younger offenders.
Lower North Region highlights
Tu Tangata Maraenui – This new four-week course, ‘Empowering Maraenui Youth’, is for at-risk young people on the East Coast. It advises, teaches and inspires them to gain employment. The course is a joint effort by the local probation service, Work and Income, Maraenui Community Police, forestry groups and the Infinity Trust. The first group of five young men have completed the course and already got jobs in the forestry industry.
Hutt Valley Justice Sector Innovation Project – Corrections, Police, Courts and CYF in the Hutt Valley are collaborating to identify and implement initiatives that will reduce crime, and give better support to repeat victims of crime. Some of the initiatives they’re scoping include: working collaboratively with top high-risk families in the area, setting up audio-visual links to Lower Hutt Court, greater emphasis on restorative justice, and buying a van so Police, Corrections, CYF , NGOs, and iwi groups can travel to communities/streets of interest to provide education and services.
Southern Region highlights
Parenting for domestic violence – Corrections has awarded Innovation Fund money to Stopping Violence Dunedin (SVD) to deliver a parenting programme for men convicted of domestic violence. SVD already provides domestic violence interventions, but research indicates that giving relevant offenders parenting programmes as well has a stronger effect on reducing reoffending. SVD clients with children have also given strong feedback that they want to become better parents. The programme will teach offenders to take responsibilityfor their actions, to reflect on the impact of their offending on their children, and to improve their social networks as they become positively involved with their children’s activities. SVD is also collaborating with Barnados on this programme.
Trade training for Christchurch rebuild – Since November 2011, Corrections has been partnering with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) to train prisoners for the rebuild of Christchurch. Tutors from CPIT come into three purpose-built trade and technical training workshops in Christchurch Men’s Prison to deliver training in painting/paper-hanging, automotive repair, and plumbing/drainlaying. Since the workshops opened, prisoners have earned 131 National Certificates, with some prisoners earning more than one.
Volunteers reducing re-offending
A message to Corrections’ volunteers from National Volunteer Co-ordinator Barbara Jennings.
Corrections is changing; we’ve restructured, we have an ambitious goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017, and we have all kinds of new projects and improvement programmes to help us meet that goal.
We will be doing more of the things that are proven to help offenders change – such as giving them more educational opportunities marketable job skills, effective rehabilitation programmes, and reintegrative support.
Many volunteers are already helping offenders in these key areas. We know we can’t reduce re-offending alone, so in the future we’ll be working even more closely with other organisations and individuals like you, who are willing to help.
As part of our overall improvements, we will look at how we can maximise the contribution of volunteers to reducing re-offending.
In the past we have tended to focus on prison volunteering, but now we are looking at the bigger picture and how volunteers might best be able to support community-based offenders and their families.
Of course, the safety and security of all involved is of paramount importance, and we need to find innovative ways to maximise positive community links while keeping everyone safe.
I do encourage you to read the rest of Corrections News. It will help to give you a feel for the scope of Corrections’ work nationally. Also, in future editions, we may use it to ask for your help if we identify any specific volunteering needs or gaps – so watch this space.
Thank you for all the time and energy you gave in 2012 – and all the best for 2013.
To mark International Volunteer Awareness Day on 5 December, Corrections staff and Christchurch volunteers met to celebrate with a picnic in the park. “It was a way for us to acknowledge the invaluable work of our volunteers and network in a pleasant and informal way,” says Volunteer Coordinator Southern Region Brett Drewitt. This event was just one of many held around the country to acknowledge and celebrate volunteers.
Out with the old: The Prison Reconfiguration Programme
The closure of historic Wellington Prison in November 2012 was a significant milestone in Corrections’ Prison Reconfiguration Programme.
The programme, announced in March 2012, also saw the closure last year of a number of units that had reached the end of their life at Arohata, Rolleston, Tongariro / Rangipo and Waikeria Prisons. New Plymouth Prison will close in March 2013.
“The ageing buildings we have decided to close as part of the Prison Reconfiguration Programme were designed and built in a different time,” says Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith.
Moving forward with a strong focus on reducing re-offending, Corrections wants prisoners accommodated in more modern facilities, which are better equipped to prepare them for crime-free lives when they are released.
On the weekend before the Wellington Prison closure, two open days were attended by over 6,000 members of the public and Corrections staff. For many, it was the first and last time they would see inside the 85-year-old prison, which was built by prisoners on the Miramar Peninsula in the late 1920s.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of people genuinely interested in the prison. Long queues and traffic jams could not deter them. Thanks to the knowledge and stories of Wellington Prison staff who hosted the open days, visitors left with a richer idea of what llife was like at Wellington Prison, and with a greater appreciation for the work of Corrections staff,” said Wellington Prison Closure Implementation Manager Julie Gowan.
Entry to the prison was by gold coin donation and $6324 was raised for charities chosen by staff, including Women’s Refuge, Victim Support, Salvation Army, and Night Shelter.
On 30 November 2012, the official closure day, the site was blessed by local iwi and prison chaplains, and staff were formally thanked for their service. The day ended with the last ceremonial locking of the door by Evelyn Such, a long-serving staff member of Wellington Prison, and the lowering of the flag.
“It was a day tinged with sadness and mixed emotions for staff,” said ex-Wellington Prison Manager Simon Hicks. “However, it was great for them and key prison contributors to gather and collectively reflect on the memories they will take on to new beginnings, either at Corrections or further afield.”
New Plymouth Prison is now the only facility within the programme still operating. However, plans are in place for its closure in March 2013. It is New Zealand’s oldest operational prison, and was built over 140 years ago in the 1870s.
Both the Wellington and New Plymouth prison sites are steeped in history, having been important places of Maori occupation and serving military purposes before becoming prisons. To ensure both Treaty and heritage considerations are taken into account, Corrections will pass management of the disposal of the crown-owned buildings and land to Land Information New Zealand.
Graduate Nurse Liz Whiteford
Liz Whiteford, a graduate nurse in the three Canterbury prisons, was recently awarded the Canterbury DHB James William (Bill) Frew Memorial Prize. The prize is awarded at the end of the year-long ‘Nursing Entry to Practice’, or ‘NetP’ Programme to a nurse who has been ‘exceptional’ in her first year of practice. Liz joined Corrections at the same time as starting her post-graduate study.
I’d been working as an independent contractor in the broadcasting industry and wanted to do something completely different. My many visits to hospital were a real eye-opener. I realised that patients only did well if they had someone to advocate for them.
So why nursing at Corrections?
My interest started when I was sent to Christchurch Women’s Prison for seven weeks on student nurse placement. I’ve never walked away from complex issues and this is no exception. There are proven links between the need for healthcare and a prisoner’s socio-economic status; and I like to encourage them to take ownership of their health needs in their own interest and that of their whanau.
How has your first year been?
I’m really enjoying it! Being a mature person is a real plus. I’m working with such diverse groups, but it’s the same range of personalities as any other large group. I’ve found a way of working with the prisoners, because at the end of the day, their health needs are similar to anyone else’s.
What are outsiders’ reactions when you say where you work?
My ex-colleagues are surprised that I love working here as much as I do… and are filled with curiosity! I admit I did have preconceptions about working here, but I couldn’t actually pinpoint what they were. People ask how I can work with people who have committed crimes, but conversely I feel more concerned about people in the community whose behaviours go unchecked.
What does being awarded the James William (Bill) Frew Memorial Prize mean to you?
It was a complete surprise to me – in fact I was taken aback. It was recognition not only of my skills but also those of my preceptors at Canterbury prisons and the Correction’s health team nationwide.
What type of study was involved?
I did assignments, policy reviews and appraisals. I also did a patient case study of someone dealing with drug and alcohol addiction in prison. The judges were genuinely interested in the challenges of providing of health care in the prison environment.
Prison nursing facts and figures 2011-12
- Corrections employed 163 full-time equivalent nurses, plus 15 team leaders and 14 Health Centre managers (who are also nurses)
- Nurses made 23,738 assessments of prisoners’ immediate health needs – these assessments are made when a prisoner first arrives in prison, is returned to prison from court, or is transferred
- Nurses gave 193,556 consultations with prisoners that required entry into the prisoners’ health records.
NZ Corrections on the world stage
Late last year, Corrections participated in two key international corrections forums – the 2012 Asian and Pacific Conference of Correctional Administrators (APCCA) in Brunei, and the 2012 International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) Conference in Mexico City.
Participating in these forums allows us to exchange ideas and best practices, and establish and maintain international contacts.
There was a strong focus on reintegration at both conferences. Other issues discussed included the growing use of technology, privatisation of corrections services, and flexible community sentences.
Corrections managers delivered presentations at both conferences on our goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017 as part of the Government’s Better Public Services targets.
Director Policy and Research Jane von Dadelszen was at the ICPA conference as a plenary speaker.
“Our goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017 is the most ambitious in the world, and before I gave my talk I had a lot of conversations with some very sceptical people."
“However, after they’d heard how we’re going about it, people became very enthusiastic and even more interested. We’ve been asked to provide an update at the ICPA conference next year in Colorado; the eyes of the correctional world are very much upon us.”
Jane says the discussion after her talk included how we are collaborating with other organisations to gain leverage from shared goals, and the outstanding level of commitment from everyone concerned, from the Prime Minister to staff on the frontline.
“They were very impressed with the way the Department is working to gain support from all staff to achieve our goal. Another thing that came up is how impressed people are with the data we have. We know what the rates are and will be able to measure our
successes with a lot more accuracy than most countries.”
The ICPA conference was held from 28 October – 2 November in Mexico City, Mexico, with the theme of ‘Different Paths, One Vision: Transforming Corrections’.
ICPA is an association for corrections officials, academics and the private sector, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas, technology, and best practice. The annual ICPA conference attracts 350-400 delegates from over 60 countries, with most OECD countries sending at least one delegate.
“Our goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017 is the most ambitious in the world.”
Prisoners build classrooms
Corrections has partnered with Huntly-based construction company PLB to build classrooms for Waterview Primary School in Auckland. The school was demolished during the Christmas holidays to make way for the country’s largest motorway project, the connection of State Highway 20 to the Northwestern Motorway.
The classrooms were built from scratch by prisoners at Spring Hill Corrections Facility who are working towards carpentry, plastering and painting trade training courses. A number of these prisoners have completed the 41 credit Level Two National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (BCATS).
“The real advantage is that prisoners have the experience of working on new build construction projects. Alongside the refurbishment work they also do, this gives them a real chance to gain employment in the residential and commercial building industry on release,” says Principal Adviser Timber Sector Gavin Houston.
Managing the here and now is vital for any Government or agency.
But we also need to constantly keep an eye on the future and plan for issues that will arise in the years ahead.
The reality is we have an ageing prison population – more than 200 are over sixty and fifty offenders are over 70 years old, and still have a number of years to serve.
Some of these prisoners have dementia or other health issues and are simply unable to look after themselves.
So I was delighted to be able to officially open the new High Dependency Unit at Rimutaka Prison recently, the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The 20-bed unit will provide these offenders with the high health care they need, without transporting them outside of the prison.
The Corrections Department takes its duty of care to prisoners very seriously and it’s heartening that the idea for the unit came from staff themselves.
There’s no doubt the facility will become busy during the year ahead – and I want to acknowledge the valuable work taking place right across Corrections.
A major focus for us this year will be education. Around ninety per cent of prisoners can’t read or write properly, and we know this is a major driver of crime. We need to do more to ensure more prisoners can learn basic reading and writing skills, which can break the cycle of re-offending.
A major review of education in prisons was carried out in 2012, and in the coming year we will be implementing plans to improve the provision of education inside the wire.
Of course, this work will go hand in hand with all of the other programmes in place, for example to address drug and alcohol addiction and to increase skills training.
All of this great work will help us reach the target of a 25 per cent reduction in re-offending by 2017.
But right now – at the start of 2013 – I want to wish all Corrections staff, and their families, a happy and safe New Year.
Waitangi Day help at Okains Bay
Prisoners from Christchurch Men’s Prison have helped prepare for the long-standing Waitangi Day celebrations at Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum, a historic village and marae on Banks Peninsula.
The prisoners travelled to Okains Bay on several days before Waitangi Day to help prepare a hangi, and tidy up the buildings and grounds.
Area Advisor Maori, Canterbury, Kopa Lee, who helped to get the prisoners involved in the work, says that as well as the practical benefit to the thousands of people who attended the celebrations, projects like this give prisoners meaningful work and a chance to connect with kaumatua and Maori culture.
Corrections Services Southern Regional Manager Ian Bourke says the opportunity to work on these sorts of assignments makes a significant contribution to meeting the reintegrative needs of prisoners who, at some point, will return to live in our communities.
“Association with others and in particular those who can help provide cultural support and guidance is valued by those involved in these work parties and I am really pleased with the efforts made by Kopa and other staff to create these opportunities,” says Ian.
The Waitangi Day celebrations at Okains Bay are very long-standing, with 2013 being the 37th consecutive commemoration. This is the third year running that Corrections has helped with the preparations.
New High Dependency Unit at Rimutaka Prison
On 13 December 2012, Minister of Corrections Hon Anne Tolley opened a new 20-bed High Dependency Unit (HDU)at Rimutaka Prison near Wellington.
The HDU will house prisoners with health issues that make it difficult for them to function independently in a prison environment, but who are not eligible for release. In practice, many will be older prisoners.
"This much-needed facility is a first for New Zealand prisons and I’m confident that the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff will make this unit a success,” Ms Tolley said in her opening speech.
Before they’re referred to the unit, prisoners will be independently assessed to determine their level of disability. Prisoners who are a significant securityrisk will not be eligible. Placements will initially be up to three months, during which a more detailed assessment will be done.
Prisoners will not necessarily spend their whole sentence at the unit; they may be returned to their original prison if their health improves or if they no longer need the extra levels of care provided at the unit.
The HDU is a refurbished unit in a self-contained compound on the Rimutaka Prison site. Prisoners will be accommodated in 20 single cells, each containing a shower, toilet, and hospitaltype bed. A disabled accessible shower room has been installed, along with a health office with medication administration facilities, and a treatment room.
The unit also has two large communal spaces which will serve as living, dining and activity areas. Prisoners will also be able to access an external courtyard.
The HDU will be managed by a principal corrections officer and his custodial team. Health Services staff will also be based in the unit, with a dedicated registered nurse providing clinical leadership, supported by health care assistants. The health care assistants will provide 24-hour care, assisting prisoners with the activities of daily living.
In line with the rest of the country, the prison population is getting older. In June 2006 there were only 636 prisoners over the age of 50; five years later (in 2011) there were 852. Of these, 208 were over 60, and 51 were over 70.
Who’s suitable for the High Dependency Unit?
The older prisoner
Most prisoners will be older (seventies or eighties), with several medical conditions already, and becoming frail. They need help with the activities of daily life such as showering, toileting and eating. They may suffer from dementia. Many of these prisoners are on Preventative Detention (which means there is no end date for their sentence) for sexual offending. Because of the nature of their offending, many prisoners of this type have no support on the outside.
The physically disabled prisoner
Younger prisoners with significant health conditions, who need more help than they can easily get in a mainstream unit. These prisoners will be mainly physically disabled and may include those with motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or other neurological