From the General Manager's Office
Alison Thom, General Manager Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services.
Nau mai ki tenei putunga o CorrVolunteer.
Each week we are privileged to have so many volunteers giving their time, skills and energy to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of the prisoners. In this edition we have a number of stories which demonstrate the breadth of activities that are
happening. It is a very important role that you all play in keeping these prisoners connected with the community and the opportunities that exist. I trust you will enjoy reading about them.
I would like to thank the volunteers who have been supporting the prisoners in the Canterbury Region over the last few months. Tracey Smith, our South Island Volunteer Co-ordinator, tells us that many of you have been badly affected by the earthquakes. Our thoughts are with you all. If any of our volunteers in Canterbury changed their address or cannot find their ID cards during this time please do not hesitate to contact Tracey.
We would like you all to join us in celebrating Maori Language Week on 4-10 July, the theme is Manaakitanga – how we make people feel welcome in our company and how we care for others when hosting visitors. We encourage you to ‘give it a go’ using the resource booklets and other Maori language materials available.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment and we continue to look forward to working with you.
Kia Kaha Ake
A weekly meditation class at Whanganui prison helps prisoners to build inner peace, and to help cope with the stress of prison life.
Since 2005 Buddhist Nun and volunteer, Gen Kelsang Demo has taught regular weekly meditation classes at the prison.
It all came about when a prisoner requested a Buddhist monk or nun visit him in 2004. Gen Demo visited regularly and quickly the prisoner put the meditation he was learning into practice. Other prisoners wanted to know what his secret was, and why he was so relaxed and easy going! In 2005 a more formal class developed.
“The classes are no different from other meditation classes that I teach in the community,” says Gen Demo. “Everyone experiences painful, uncontrolled states of mind. Everyone searches for happiness and freedom from suffering. Discovering that the source
of stable happiness lies within the mind, rather than in external objects can be quite a turn around!
Meditation works to recognise and reduce painful states of mind like anger, frustration, jealousy and replace them with positive states of mind.” It is the integration of the peaceful feelings, thoughts and intentions into day-to-day life that make a difference.
With 21 approved Kaiwhakamana the scheme at Waikeria Prison is flourishing. Kaiwhakamana are volunteers, who identify as being Maori, are nominated by their Iwi/Urban Authority or National Maori Organisation and are generally speaking, elders. They are registered as ‘specified visitors’ who are given greater access to Maori prisoners.
“A year ago we only had six or seven Kaiwhakamana, and they weren’t that active,” says Peri Mason, Area Advisor Maori. “Now we, and the custodial staff, are over the moon about the way it’s working. Over the last year Peri and his colleagues have organised 20 hui to find suitable Kaiwhakamana, and he also did a huge amount of work with his colleagues in Prison Services “letting everyone know about the benefits of the relationships Kaiwhakamana have with prisoners.”
Peri says “We’ve had at least 15-20 prisoners seen by Kaiwhakamana, some on an ongoing basis, in a three-month period alone.”
Sewing kits a hit!
A group of very useful volunteers at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) have a Friday Quilt-Stitch group creating ‘pick up and go’ ‘hussif’ sewing kits.
The idea is hundreds of years old, where wives, sisters and girlfriends made a special sewing kit for the soldiers to take to war with them. They could therefore mend their own clothes - replacing buttons, mending tears, etc, all without the help of their women folk. These ‘hussifs’ (a Turkish word) were often made of leather or fine cotton, and were put in the soldier’s backpacks. When the hussif was used, the soldier could then think of his family back home.
Volunteers at ARWCF cut out items from donated fabrics and batting, and present them as unsewn kits for the women to hand sew together.
A hussif is 25 cms x 41 cms, contains pockets for sewing essentials, a needle case and pin-cushion. It can be rolled up and tied closed. Prisoners are encouraged to embroider their name or initials on the front to personalise their ‘tool kit’.
As one of the women said prior to her release, “I’m so pleased with what I have done here, I’ve sewn something for all my family and I’m always so busy; I have no time to gossip!”
Prisons now smokefree
During the Department’s 12-month period to prepare for the implementation of smokefree prisons, a number of positive initiatives have been introduced and an encouraging number of staff and prisoners have shown their support by taking proactive steps towards improving their health.
The initiatives and support have not just been restricted to Prison Services staff either. We have worked very closely with the Ministry of Health and the Quit Group, and we’ve had a great deal of support from the Department as a whole.
Last month, smoking cessation facilitators from K'aute Pasifika, (a Pacific Island community services provider for Waikato DHB), did a presentation at Waikeria Prison. About 30 Pacific prisoners attended the one hour educational presentation. Feedback was extremely positive, with some saying they felt motivated and supported enough to stop smoking.
Since the announcement of the smoking ban last year, more than 4,400 prisoners have started nicotine replacement therapy.
Engagement with prisoners has been highly proactive; and media attention on the policy and its implementation has also ramped up in the last month with feature stories on Close Up and Campbell Live.
Staff and volunteers are only permitted to smoke in designated smoking areas outside the secure perimeter of the prison. You won’t be permitted to bring cigarettes and tobacco related items inside the wire or into units. These measures will help keep people safe from any allegations. We need staff and volunteer support to provide a safe and healthy workplace by becoming smokefree.
Getting into prison
In March we mentioned that from May Corrections was introducing a new electronic system for managing access into prisons for non-Departmental staff, including volunteers.
Unfortunately unexpected delays mean we are now looking at introducing the new electronic access system at the three Wellington prisons on 12 September and for all other prisons on Monday 10 October. Your local Volunteer Co-ordinator or Department contact will be in touch shortly about updating your details and arranging a time for you to come in and have your photograph taken. The
Wellington volunteers who have had their photos taken already will be able to collect their new cards after 5 September.
Your new card will grant you access to the prison(s) you are approved for and you will be required to take your card with you every time you go to the prison - no ID card, no entry. There will be a four-week grace period after the new system is introduced to get your
photo taken and your new ID cards issued.
Once the grace period expires, you will not be able to get inside a prison using the old system. You will have to organise a time with your local Volunteer Coordinator to get your photo taken and wait until your new ID card is issued before you can enter a prison.
ID swipe cards, similar to this one, will soon be
introduced to make access to prisons easier
Libraries changing lives
Provided by volunteer Katherine Taniora
“Books can and do change lives when you add the human factor into the cause such as librarians going into the not-so-public places, sharing their passion of books. A lot can be learnt and said about public libraries and the will of librarians to make a difference in what is considered a sombre environment.”
Now let’s hear from someone who has been on the receiving end…
“I’m a solo mother of five and was recently incarcerated in the ARWCF. During my time inside I had a baby girl whom I had the privilege of keeping with me. Thanks to the library programme it helped me to bond with my daughter through the weekly wriggle and rhyme sessions. The sessions were a guide through different movement activities, which I had not been exposed to before. The team were awesome: friendly, helpful and approachable. The programme helped me in my reintegration back into the community. All my children now have library cards and we visit at least three times a week.”
New uniforms in prisons
From September, our Corrections uniforms are going to change from khaki to blue. Here's a sneak preview