Food and culture combine
Collaboration among offenders on community sentences in Manurewa, Franklin and Papakura Community Corrections brings together a diverse group of Aucklanders through sharing food and learning more about each other’s culture.
“Our community work teams regularly contribute to the community garden of the Takanini Sikh
Temple, which is helping to provide fresh produce to about 3,000 people who visit the temple weekly,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Gael Paki.
“Their contribution to the garden’s upkeep has had the unexpected, but most welcome, spin-off effect of people from different cultures getting to know each other’s beliefs and protocols.”
An initiative of the Shri Kalgidhar Sahib Gurudwara Sikh Temple, the ever-expanding community garden of about five hectares was opened in August last year.
Community-based offender work teams were welcomed at the temple to help with cultivating the fresh produce and to enjoy a meal with temple visitors. They contribute at least 96 hours of work over two days per week to the community gardens.
“Corrections’ contribution is invaluable in producing food for struggling families and the homeless,” says Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand spokesperson Daljit Singh.
Portacom project benefits prisoners
Collaboration between Auckland Prison and Castle Portable Buildings is seeing prisoners constructing portable office units for use at major road construction projects.
“The first of these units is nearly finished, and the men are learning invaluable building skills that will help them secure employment upon their release,” says Manager Industries David Grear.
There are currently five prisoners working on the project, and Castle says they’ll provide jobs and ongoing training to a number of prisoners once they are released.
Castle is a local company in Auckland, manufacturing a vast array of portable buildings from large temporary office space to small sleep-outs.
“The opportunity Castle is giving the men is fantastic, and they’re genuinely motivated to deliver their best work,” says David.
The contract with Castle is open and the prisoners will build as many portable units as are needed.
One of the men involved in the project explains he’s had no prior building experience, but has discovered he has a real knack for construction and an eye for detail.
“I’m look forward to learning more, and have already put my hand up for a potential job opportunity with Castle. It will be a chance for me to make a fresh start and do something that I really enjoy.”
Ministerial recognition for Tai Aroha
Minister of Corrections Hon Kelvin Davis surprised staff and residents at Tai Aroha in a recent visit to the whare on his journey north for Waitangi celebrations.
Drawn by its focus on supporting tāne (men) through rehabilitation and reintegration activities in a community environment, the Minister spent time with both tauira (students) and kaimahi (staff) to better understand the programme content – and its success.
With tāne leading the whakatau (welcome) process and sharing their experiences, they demonstrated how the programme was changing their approach to the challenges of life. The anticipated one hour visit extended to two hours as the Minister engaged through whanaungatanga (kinship) and manaakitanga (support), participating in the end of day reflective session.
Programme Manager Rob August says, “Having the Minister at the whare meant so much to us all. It reinforced the rewards we all see, especially with the intensity of treatment undertaken.”
A new look for Saili Matagi
The long journey “searching for winds” for Saili Matagi has reached a new horizon. With collaboration from Dr Siautu Alefaio of Massey University and our Pasifika community, the review of the programme by our national team has successfully reached conclusion.
A relaunch on 19 February 2018 opened the programme to a cohort of 11 Pasifika prisoners at Spring Hill Corrections Facility. A medium intensity programme, the rehabilitative content has a strong Pasifika cultural component through the use of Pasifika language, proverbs, stories and images.
Spring Hill is the only site to hold a Pacific Focus Unit. Prison Director Chris Lightbown says, “This is a unique programme targeting our Pacific male population with serious or violent offending. By changing the format we’re able to extend opportunity to a higher number of Pasifika individuals.”
Family members and guests attended the relaunch. All recognised that none of this could have been possible without the engagement of the Pacific community, Massey University and our partners at Auckland South Corrections Facility (Serco).
“Their ongoing support in ensuring the programme’s continued success again demonstrates the commitment to navigating the winds of change,” says Chris.
New Levin Community Corrections site opens
A new purpose-built Community Corrections site in Levin was officially opened on 16 March 2018.
Chief Executive Ray Smith says, “Levin staff now have a workplace that’s fit-for-purpose and would better serve people the site works with. It creates a more open, welcoming environment, while ensuring the safety and security of our staff and visitors.”
Security features include CCTV monitoring, controlled entry to the main entrance, an anti-climb reception counter, interview rooms fitted with duress alarms and two points of entry/exit.
“The new site’s part of Corrections’ nation-wide renewal programme to make Community Corrections sites more secure for staff and those who visit them,” says Ray.
“In 2013 we committed to upgrading 70% of our community sites, Levin being one of them.”
The 30 staff who work there now have modern facilities to manage community-based offenders, provide meaningful community work projects, deliver rehabilitation programmes and psychological treatment.
Last year, offenders managed by Levin Community Corrections contributed to nearly 21,500 hours of community work projects across Horowhenua.
Children’s Day in Arohata Prison
There were superheroes and silver ferns at Arohata Prison on Sunday 4 March. Children visiting their mums on Children’s Day were able to have their faces painted in a range of designs with Spiderman and Batman proving most popular.
“The visits centre was buzzing with happy children,” says Arohata’s Deputy Director Matire Kupenga-Wanoa.
“Around 25 children came to spend an afternoon with mum, doing activities together they wouldn’t normally do.”
Colouring-in, hand-painting, a photo with mum, and a slice of a special Children’s Day chocolate cake rounded off the activities that were organised by the prison’s social worker.
“Arohata’s social worker is a vital link between the women, their whanau and other agencies. Women separated from their children have a high level of anxiety and our social worker can help ease that,” says Matire.
Introducing innovative ways for mothers to connect with their children during visits is included in Corrections’ Women’s Strategy.
“Our Women’s Strategy encourages women to grow healthy relationships with their children, whanau and partners. Recognising Children’s Day is just one way the team at Arohata are doing this.
“It’s the second time we’ve marked Children’s Day at Arohata and we’ll be looking at doing it again.” Children’s Day is an Oranga Tamariki initiative that celebrates tamariki and encourages everyone to help youngsters thrive.
Community workers make a difference
The South Island’s West Coast is a unique environment. An area the length of the North Island, squeezed between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea, the “Coast” has a small widely spread population including, in 2017, 170 offenders on community work sentences.
To manage this small group of offenders over such a large area, Corrections staff are innovative; building strong agency partnerships to deliver local solutions to local problems.
In 2017, offenders completed 14,072 hours providing support following local weather events, maintenance of run down and abandoned historical sites, and development, beautification and maintenance of tourist sites and bike tracks.
Blackball Residents Association volunteer Stewart Johnston supports two local offenders, including providing transport as neither have a driver licence. They have completed nearly 60 hours community work between them.
“In a small town everyone knows everyone’s business,” says Stewart, “so there are no secrets and the wider community can fully support people on sentence.”
This support plays a crucial part in the success of these projects, the work of Corrections, and of the local offenders for a future without crime.
Marathon a New Zealand first
Early one January morning, 25 young offenders at Christchurch Men’s Prison youth unit prepared to run a marathon – thought to be a first in a New Zealand prison.
Joshua Foundation’s Chris Allan, who runs the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award programme in the unit, came up with the idea and Principal Corrections Officer Gary Smallridge made sure it happened.
The Hillary Award has three levels, and Chris suggested the young men complete a marathon for the physical recreation component. They quickly became competitive and challenged each other running the 2.2km loop inside the secure prison perimeter.
‘Marathon man’ and volunteer coach Olivier Lacoua spoke to the youth about his own experience having run 79 marathons. Olivier, Gary and other prison staff have been running alongside the young men ever since.
Rain on the day was no dampener. Twenty-five prisoners and 14 staff took part in both the half and full marathon, with the marathon being won in 4:13 hours by a prisoner.
*Tom is one of the young prisoners who completed a full marathon. In prison for drug related offending, he says the morning runs are helping him to get his life back on track.
“It’s great to get up in the morning and do something physical,” he says. “It’s so much better than drugs and I’m making my family proud of me again.”
*Not his real name