From the General Manager's Office
Welcome to the spring edition of CorrVolunteer. In this issue we highlight some of the many volunteer activities in our prisons and the personalities who make such a valuable contribution to prison life.
Spring is a time of rejuvenation and renewal and it is perhaps timely that I share with you some of the decisions that have recently been confirmed by the Chief Executive following the Department’s Value for Money Review. These decisions reflect a fundamental change in the way the Department is organised and positioned to meet present and future challenges.
Successful organisations focus not only on the present, but also anticipate and prepare for the future. They review and adapt policies, procedures and structures to ensure ongoing efficiency and effectiveness. I am confident that the proposed changes which are to be phased in over the next three years will enable the Department to do its job well, build public confidence and improve public safety. They will also contribute to relationships with important stakeholders such as volunteers.
A new Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services group will be established within the Department, to work alongside the operational groups, Prison Services and Community Probation Services. This change in structure will enhance the Department’s work by ensuring greater alignment with our core business of sentence compliance and reducing re-offending. Greater clarification of roles and responsibilities will also assist us to improve our effectiveness for Maori offenders and our engagement with Maori communities.
There is still a lot to be done in implementing the decisions I have briefly outlined, decisions which I believe will ultimately improve outcomes for the offenders in our care. I am committed to embracing these changes in partnership with you and your organisations in the months to come. I look forward to taking this journey with you as we meet the challenges of the future together.
General Manager Prison Services
Volunteering outside the wire
Hamsa Lilley, literacy support volunteer in the Wellington area, has been working with John* since she started as a prison volunteer in 2008. Recently John was released from prison and Hamsa is continuing to support him as he reestablishes his life in the community.
Hamsa’s decision to volunteer arose from her desire to help her local community. “I think volunteering is a great thing to do,” says Hamsa. “I was interested in working with prisoners as I believe people can change and learn to make better choices. I wanted to help them do this,” she explains.
Working together for the last 12 months has been a learning curve for both Hamsa and John. “I have come to realise that many prisoners haven’t had the opportunities I have enjoyed in life,” says Hamsa. “I’m reminded of this when I work with John. Volunteers need to keep an open mind and should not get disheartened if progress is slow and difficult.”
As Hamsa worked with John, she became increasingly aware that he would need continuing community support and sought the advice of Volunteer Coordinator Amy Blowers. Together with the prison Reintegration Team and the Unit Manager, a release plan was developed for John. This included post-release literacy support from Hamsa. “Having pre- and post-release support from Hamsa has achieved a smooth and secure transition into the community for John,” explains Reintegration Caseworker Wayne Westrupp. “Without her support, acceptance from the community would have been much more difficult.”
Hamsa concludes, “Volunteering has shown me that my small contribution of a once-a-week visit can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
* John is a fictional name to protect privacy.
PFNZ Hawke's Bay celebrates 10 years of volunteering
On 17 August the Hastings District Council hosted a civic reception for the Prison Fellowship Hawke’s Bay. This was attended by some 60 volunteers and PFNZ national staff.
Mayor Lawrence Yule began by welcoming the volunteers and thanking them for their selfless community contribution and tireless service. This was followed by a mihi from Senior Prison Chaplain John Flavell.
In his address Robin Gunston, the newly appointed PFNZ National Director, challenged the District Council to consider making Hawke’s Bay Prison, its staff and the released prisoners, a more integral part of the community. He also asked the Council to consider the prison more in its community planning.
Prison Fellowship Hawke’s Bay is one of the longest serving PFNZ regional committees and has a proud history of successful and well-organised prison engagement.
In appreciation of the committee’s work, Hawkes Bay Regional Prison Manager George Massingham, commented on the value he places on the excellent way in which the many PFNZ volunteers and the prison chaplains work together. He expressed his desire to continue this relationship and bring new services to prisoners, particularly those which encourage purposeful activity.
From volunteer to Volunteer Coordinator
Congratulations to Mandy Gerritz who has recently been appointed Volunteer Coordinator for Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF).
Mandy is a familiar face at ARWCF where she has been a volunteer tutor and administrative assistant to Volunteer Coordinator, Margaret Maurice since the beginning of this year. Mandy hails originally from South Africa and has been in New Zealand for nine years.
Volunteering is something Mandy is passionate about. “Because I do a variety of voluntary work myself, I know what makes volunteers tick. Having volunteered in prison also helps me appreciate the particular demands prison volunteers face.”
Mandy is looking forward to inspiring others to join the prison volunteer effort in the northern area. “Prison volunteering is an experience like no other,” explains Mandy. “There are many benefits for both volunteers and prisoners. It’s a win-win situation. It’s amazing to think that for me, it all started with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!”
If you would like to find out more about prison volunteering opportunities, please contact your local volunteer coordinator (details can be found on the back page of this newsletter) or email email@example.com
Paul Reet: Otago's gold nugget
Volunteer counsellor at Otago Corrections Facility, Paul Reet, has been described as a ‘gold nugget’ because of the value placed on the important work he does with prisoners there.
Paul began his voluntary work at Dunedin Prison in 2006 and every weekend since its closure, he has travelled 132 km to Otago Corrections Facility to counsel prisoners.
Paul is the primary mental health nurse for the Taieri and Strath Public Health Organisation. He and his wife came to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 2005. Although a fully registered mental health nurse and counsellor in the UK, Paul had to accumulate a certain number of counselling hours in New Zealand in order to register with the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. He discovered that the quickest way to achieve this was to volunteer as a counsellor. Prison counselling provided him with a perfect opportunity.
“Many prisoners experience grief, stress, anxiety and depression, just like any member of the community,” explains Paul. “However the prison environment can intensify their effect on people and access to counselling services can often prove slow and difficult.”
Since receiving his full registration, Paul has continued to volunteer at OCF. “I realise that many prisoners have a long road to recovery and full reintegration,” says Paul, “but I believe no-one is beyond change. Small, sustained steps can reap benefits for the prisoners, their families and our communities.”
- Don’t forget to register for the biennial New Zealand National Volunteering Conference, entitled Volunteering Unleashed to take place on 28 - 29 October 2009 in the Wellington Town Hall. For further information, see the Volunteering NZ website www.volunteeringnz.org.nz
- A big thank you to everyone who donated knitting wool for the baby blanket and beanie programme at ARWCF. To date 88 blankets and 79 beanies have been made and donated to the South Auckland Health Foundation’s Wool Programme – a superb effort!
- As Christmas approaches it’s time once again to prepare for the Angel Tree programme. Angel Tree is a programme run by Prison Fellowship New Zealand with valuable assistance and support from the prison chaplaincy and volunteers across New Zealand. As part of the programme, presents are delivered to the children of prisoners at Christmas. In 2008, almost 3,400 presents were delivered. This programme relies on a huge volunteer effort. To find out more, check out the PFNZ website at www.pfnz.org.nz
- PFNZ has just released two training DVDs entitled Men Need Brothers and Getting Behind the Wire, aimed at churches undertaking chapel services in prisons. Each resource comprises two one hour training sessions, a facilitator’s handbook and a student workbook. Further information can be found on the PFNZ website at www.pfnz.org.nz