Corrections News Sept-Oct 2009

Chief Executive's comment

Department of Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews.An extensive review has been underway of all aspects of how Corrections operates.

The purpose was to make sure Corrections was delivering its services in a way which improves public safety and is consistent with Government expectations.

I have now announced a series of changes to the way the Department carries out its responsibilities. They reflect a fundamental rethink of how the Department needs to function if it is to successfully meet the challenges facing the organisation now and looking ahead, and provide a structure needed to support enhanced service delivery.

A new Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services group will be established as a single service group for delivery of rehabilitation and reintegration services. This will bring greater clarity in terms of the roles of the different operational arms and assist in improving our effectiveness with Maori offenders and engagement with Maori communities.

This new delivery structure will see Prison Services with a focus on custodial services and Community Probation Services focusing on the delivery of probation services.

To enable effective leadership of Corrections during this significant period of change and beyond, the Executive Management Team will be reshaped so that each role, and its key accountabilities, more accurately reflect the areas of focus for the Department going forward and the new structure being put in place.

While the primary driver of these changes is not about saving money, I have a clear expectation that over the medium to long term considerable cost efficiencies can be made with the removal of duplication and the streamlining of activities across the Department.

Collectively, these changes along with other Departmental projects will form the future programme of work for the next three years and will support the achievement of the Strategic Business Plan (2008-13).

Barry Matthews

Prisoners keep babies warm

All Black and Kidz First Ambassador Joe Rokocoko talking to prisoners who are knitting for babies who've been admitted to hospital.For the past six months prisoners have been busy knitting and crocheting for babies in need throughout the South Auckland area.

Prisoners at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) are using donated yarn to make blankets, baby booties and beanies for the South Auckland Health Foundation (SAHF) Wool Programme.

As part of the programme, SAHF launched the ‘Knit a square – Show you care’ campaign in early July, encouraging school children and others to knit simple ‘peggy’ squares.

All Black and Kidz First Ambassador Joe Rokocoko made the first delivery of the knitted squares to the prisoners during the launch.

These will be made up into blankets and included as part of the ‘care package’ given to the families of the one in five babies born in Counties-Manukau area who will be admitted to hospital in their first year of life.

Keeping these babies warm is one thing that can be done to help and the prisoners at ARWCF are learning knitting and sewing skills while doing so.

Three new drug treatment units to open

Rimutaka Prison Drug Treatment Unit Manager Bruce Eade and Care NZ Practitioner Therapist Sandie Finnigan with 'Bob', a sculpture representing the many different positive and negative influences on prisoners at the unit.Reducing re-offending by helping prisoners overcome drug and alcohol problems.

“For me, offending and drinking worked hand-in-hand. My judgement was clouded and I didn’t think of the consequences.

“I’ve learned a lot of positive things here that’ll help me stay clean when I get out. I can’t ever have a drink because of what it’ll lead to; I don’t want to end up in jail again.”

These words from a prisoner who has almost finished the programme at the Rimutaka Prison Drug Treatment Unit make the value of the work real.

This year the Government has given Corrections funding to double the number of prisoners receiving drug and alcohol treatment from 500 to 1,000 a year.

To achieve this we will be opening three new Drug Treatment Units in Otago, Wanganui and Northland, and introducing condensed three-month treatment programmes so that the large numbers of prisoners serving shorter sentences can attend (the standard programme length is six months).

Care NZ Clinical Manager Kevin Pearce, who runs the treatment programme at Rimutaka Drug Treatment Unit, believes the condensed programmes will be effective.

“They’ll be able to treat younger prisoners serving their first (usually shorter) sentences. I hope they’ll help them before they go on to a lifetime of addiction and crime,” he says.

Rimutaka Prison Drug Treatment Unit Manager Bruce Eade says the changes he sees in many of the prisoners who come through his unit are remarkable.

“When they come they’re often sullen, surly and self-centred. They become more respectful, more open and aware of what they’ve done. I’m optimistic about the new Drug Treatment Units – Corrections will be able to offer more people a chance at changing their lives,” he says.

Drug and Alcohol Strategy 2009 – 2014.


Hide and sneak: Corrections staff found contraband inside a visitor's sneakers.Visitors given the boot
Super sleuthing by gate staff at Auckland Prison apprehended two visitors trying to bring in contraband. Strong-smelling glue gave away a male visitor; staff dismantled his shoes to find cannabis and a cell-phone hidden inside. A female visitor was also found trying to smuggle in a brand-new cell-phone.

Tupperware party foiled
A sharp-eyed corrections officer on his way to work at Tongariro/Rangipo Prison spotted a Tupperware container tucked into the grass by the prison entrance. On stopping to investigate he found almost an ounce of cannabis hidden inside.

Intelligence triumphs
The Intelligence Team at Invercargill Prison learned of a planned contraband drop so they ensured the prison’s drug dog was on hand to check visitors. The dog indicated that it had found contraband on a female visitor. When interviewed, she admitted she had hidden cannabis internally inside a condom. She was arrested by Police and taken from the site.

Know something? Dial 0800 JAILSAFE
0800 JAILSAFE (0800 524 572) is a free national phone line for anyone to anonymously phone in information relating to the trafficking of drugs or other crimes in our prisons.

Maori focus leads to positive change

(Left to right) Waikeria Prison Maori Focus Unit Manager Errol Baker, Kuia Rangi Huriwaka and Kaumatua Solomon Nelson and George Nelson in front of the unit's prisoner-built pataka (storehouse), Ranginui. The pataka is used to store vegetables which are donated to the women's refuge in Hamilton.Succeeding for Maori.

A recent evaluation has found that Corrections’ Maori Focus Units and Maori Therapeutic Programmes help offenders to learn about tikanga Maori and provide a positive environment where participants can learn to improve their lives.

The evaluation found that Maori Therapeutic Programme participants became more highly motivated to change their lifestyles for the better. They also became more aware of the kind of help they needed to avoid re-offending and more motivated to use such services.

The evaluation used a range of methods, including interviews, psychometric measures, and reconviction analysis.

Acting Manager Maori and Pacific Policy Russell Caldwell says the evaluation shows the units are succeeding in creating therapeutic environments where prisoners can learn new thinking and behaviour.

“However, there’s room for improvement so that even greater gains can be achieved. We will explore ways to ensure that all prisoners who enter Maori Focus Units are given the best opportunity to change their ways.

“We are particularly focused on how we can best use Maori Focus Units to encourage gang members to leave gangs and change those attitudes and beliefs that trap them in criminal lifestyles,” he says.

Waikeria Prison Maori Focus Unit Manager Errol Baker highlights support during the release process as another important area if Maori Focus Units are to achieve greater success in the future.

“Some of the prisoners from dysfunctional families don’t want to go back to their whanau as that’s where they got in trouble in the first place, so it’s important to have good community links to find suitable accommodation and provide them with the other things they need on release,” he says.

Corrections has five Maori Focus Units. The first was established at Hawkes Bay Prison in 1997, with the remaining four – at Tongariro/Rangipo, Waikeria, Rimutaka and Wanganui Prisons – opening over the following few years. Most are stand-alone 60-bed units.

What are Maori Focus Units and Maori Therapeutic Programmes?

Maori Focus Units are therapeutic communities in which tikanga Maori (cultural principles and practices) forms the basis for all interactions.

The Maori Therapeutic Programme is one part of the overall Maori Focus Unit ‘experience’ and not all prisoners in a Maori Focus Unit will do the programme. It is a group-based rehabilitation programme, led by experienced facilitators.

A new release on life

Specialisation works: Mangere Service Centre Prison Release Team.Enhancing staff capability and ensuring offenders comply with their sentences.

Corrections’ recently formed prison release teams are offering a more specialised service to manage released prisoners.

Every Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) service centre in New Zealand now has probation officers especially assigned to manage offenders released from prison. In larger CPPS offices these staff are organised into dedicated prison release teams.

Managing released prisoners is generally more difficult as they have more complex reintegrative needs than offenders serving a sentence wholly in the community.

Members of the teams specialise, with more senior staff dealing with the most troublesome or high-risk offenders.

Mangere Service Centre Manager Tony Fink says he’s very happy with the way his prison release team is working.

“The team arrangement not only ensures that more experienced and highly trained staff deal with higher risk offenders, it also supports mentoring and provides a clear back-up system when staff take leave.

“We’re more accountable than ever before,” he says.

At present they are managing around a hundred offenders a week, including doing home visits and conducting special assessments at each report-in for the three child sex offenders on extended supervision orders on their case load.

News in brief

Last financial year, prisoners worked more hours and received more NZQA credits than ever before.More prisoners in work training
Prisoners training in Corrections Inmate Employment activities achieved 68,521 NZQA credits during the 2008/2009 financial year – an increase of 82 per cent over the previous year. The prisoners worked over 4.5 million hours, which equates to an average of 35.6 hours a week. Last financial year, prisoners worked more hours and received more NZQA credits than ever before.

Kia Marama opens doors
Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit for child sex offenders is having its bi-annual open day on October 9 this year. This year the open day will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the unit. Stakeholders and media will be invited to visit the Christchurch-based unit.

Talkin’ ‘bout my organisation
Corrections staff from around the country have spent their evenings and lunch-breaks speaking to nearly 100 community groups (mostly Rotary clubs), to encourage community support and understanding of our work.

Ahurewa is a new magazine produced quarterly by Corrections’ Maori Services Team. Ahurewa means ‘unlocking the potential’ and highlights the efforts of individuals, groups and organisations who make a conscious effort to keep people out of the Corrections system.

Greener prisons
Hawkes Bay Prison has a new resource efficiency project to recycle waste and conserve water, electricity and gas. The next phase of the project will give prisoners job opportunities recycling waste on site. Wanganui Prison is also getting more efficient by installing a new system to handle wood shavings from its joinery. Shavings will be recycled and sold to farms as bedding for animals. Previously the plant had to pay for the shavings to be taken to landfill.

Staying safe in prison

All corrections officers are soon to receive special training in tactical communication and 'de-escalation' techniques.Keeping prison staff safe by enhancing capability.

Providing a safe working environment for staff is a top priority for Corrections.

To help keep prison staff safe, Corrections has been working with unions on a prison staff safety project.

Acting Manager of Service Development Rachel Leota says prisoner violence to staff is a very serious issue.

“It is vitally important that we are proactive in mitigating it,” she says.

The prison staff safety project team analysed over 1800 prisoner assaults on staff from the last five years. It found that the most common type of assault is a punch to the head (36 per cent of assaults) followed by pushing (20 per cent). If a weapon is used, it is usually liquid (such as hot tea, water, or urine) thrown into the face.

As a result of the assault analysis and an in-depth review of how other countries are dealing with the problem, Corrections is now implementing two areas of work:

  • training in tactical communication and ‘de-escalation’ techniques to help staff manage potentially violent situations more effectively, and
  • introducing personal protective equipment in high-risk situations to protect staff from injuries.

Corrections officers already work closely with prisoners, listening to their concerns, and it is important that they can proactively work with prisoners to solve problems in non-aggressive ways.

To better support this, three days of specific training in de-escalation techniques will be given to all corrections officers
(around 4,500 people), unit managers and prison managers.

Learning and Development Manager Denise Amesbury says these techniques are about assessing a volatile situation and deciding
how best to deal with it.

“A lot of our best corrections officers use these techniques naturally already.

“Methods include using verbal and body language skills to reduce anger and tension, disengaging, or delaying a response and
calling for back-up,” she says.

Corrections has looked at best practice in the UK and USA and examined comparable organisations such as the Police and
Customs. We have further developed their models to fit our culture and environment.

Prisons with double-bunking will get the de-escalation training first, starting at the end of September 2009. Then the training will be rolled out to the rest of the country within 12 months.

As well as tactical communication and de-escalation training, Corrections is introducing three pieces of personal protective
equipment; stab-proof vests, batons and spit-hoods (breathable bags which are put over a prisoner’s head if he or she is spitting at staff, which is especially risky when the prisoner has a communicable disease).

The equipment will not be available as part of the everyday kit for the majority of corrections officers, but it will be available in certain situations, such as high-risk escorts, or if officers are planning a ‘control and restraint’ manoeuvre where they must use physical force to restrain a violent and aggressive prisoner.

Corrections is also planning a pepper spray trial to determine whether it is appropriate for use in prisons.

Increased double-bunking: 900 more prison beds

A typical double-bunked cell at Otago Corrections Facility.Swiftly rising prisoner numbers mean more prisoners are likely to have to share their cell with another prisoner – a practice known as double-bunking.

Mt Eden Prison Manager Neville Mark says double-bunking is not new, with 21 per cent of beds nationwide already in shared cells.

“We have double-bunked units at Mt Eden,” he says. “Staff to prisoner ratios are the same in double-bunked units as in single bunk units and the staff are professional and capable in responding to any situations.”

“Prisoners can, of course, request to be moved if there’s a problem with their cell-mate, and staff sometimes request that cell-mates be moved if they suspect standovers or bullying. But the opposite happens too. I’ve seen prisoners calming their cell-mates down, telling them to chill out,” says Neville.

Projections indicate our prisons will be completely full by February 2010. Corrections is developing options to increase prison capacity, but to meet the immediate and ongoing need, increased double-bunking is the only solution.

The increased double-bunking is planned for our four newest prisons – Otago Corrections Facility, Northland Region Corrections Facility, Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.

These prisons are the best equipped for double-bunking because they have the necessary infrastructure for expansion, the best levels of security and technology, and are located in the areas of greatest demand.

Double-bunking at these four sites should give us around 900 more beds. We will also need to recruit more corrections officers so that staff to prisoner ratios stay the same in the double-bunked units.

Research shows double-bunking does not invariably lead to increased violence, although it can create tensions that need to be managed well. There are also examples of double-bunking working positively, with cell-mates supporting each other.

Corrections commissioned an independent review from New Zealand Health and Safety experts Impac to find out if increased double-bunking could affect staff safety. Their report concluded that:

“…double-bunking is operating successfully and safely in facilities which are older, more cramped and less well designed than those in the new prisons. Therefore there appears to be no inherent staff safety reason why the practice of double-bunking cannot be extended now and in the future.”

Currently, corrections officers use their own judgement, based on information from the electronic offender records system, and their experience, to decide who should share a cell. They consider factors such as the prisoners’ offences, physical size, gang affiliations and whether the prisoners are smokers or not.

In order to help corrections officers make these decisions, Corrections is developing a ‘shared cell risk assessment’ tool, which will pull all the relevant risk factors together into one place. The aim is to minimise risk to staff and prisoners by ensuring officers have all the information at their fingertips.

Power back on at Wellington Prison

Old but running smoothly: One of the units in Wellington Prison.Wellington Prison, one of New Zealand’s oldest working prisons, was reopened in July following its temporary closure last year.

The old prison recently received its 100th prisoner and is now back to ‘business as usual’.

The prison was reopened because of the high prisoner population across the country.

“With our 120 beds we’ve been able to relieve some pressure off prisons with high musters,” says Acting Wellington Prison Manager Peter Dunn.

“It’s like we never left. My staff have slotted straight back into the routines of the prison and everything is running well.

“There has been no major disruption for prisoners either. They are involved in rehabilitation, employment and reintegration as usual.”

Peter acknowledges the age of the prison but says that it is all up to code.

“While the prison is 82 years old, it meets our needs for containing the rising number of prisoners.”

Container unit to open by March 2010

An artist's impression of a container cell unit.

Corrections Minister Hon Judith Collins announced on August 27 that the country’s first prison unit made from modified shipping containers will open at Rimutaka Prison during March 2010.

From early 2010 onwards Corrections will need more prison beds to deal with a forecast increase in prisoners.

Ms Collins says the 60-bed unit will be cost effective and will quickly deliver much needed beds to the prison system.

The unit will provide plain but decent accommodation for prisoners and will be similar to cells built by more traditional methods.

Chief Executive Barry Matthews says the unit will give Corrections the opportunity to fully test the concept of using containers as accommodation, both from a building and operating perspective and across different security classifications.

“This testing will help inform decisions on construction of similar units at other sites across the country,” he says.

He says that while the new unit will help significantly, it will not remove the urgent need to implement increased double-bunking at our new facilities.

“Double-bunking at our four newest facilities will add approximately 900 beds to the prison system and will meet the immediate need for more prisoner accommodation.”

Acts of bravery

Commended by the Chief Executive for courage and professionalism: (left to right) Senior Corrections Officer Louise Davies and Corrections Officers Peter Hoare, Maumau Paulo and Patricia Smith.Senior Corrections Officer Louise Davies was escorting a prisoner back to his cell when he was set upon by a group of prisoners with makeshift weapons.

She immediately put herself between her prisoner and his attackers in an attempt to protect him, receiving serious wounds herself. Her colleagues, Corrections Officers Peter Hoare and Maumau Paulo were attacked when they tried to help her.

In a separate incident, Corrections Officer Patricia Smith stepped in when she noticed two prisoners punching and kicking another officer in a yard inside her unit. She managed to separate the prisoners from the officer, preventing what could have been an even more serious situation.

These acts of bravery were honoured by Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews who gave his special commendation award to the four officers on August 20.

Receiving her award, Corrections Officer Patricia Smith says she was able to de-escalate the situation because she had the respect of one of the prisoners.

“I didn’t feel particularly brave, but I reacted without any thought for myself, just that I must defend my colleague, something I hope all of us would do.

“Respect is a much talked about thing but it can’t be demanded. It has to be earned, but once gained the benefits are enormous,” she says.

Finding child sex offenders a home

Community Probation & Psychological Services Waitemata Area Manager Alastair Riach considers a range of information including psychological reports, offending history and geographical location, as he searches for suitable accommodation for a soon-to-be released child sex offender.Enhancing public safety and reducing re-offending by managing risk.

If a child sex offender has completed their full sentence they have to be released from prison just like any other offender.

It’s Community Probation & Psychological Services’ (CPPS) job to do a thorough assessment to find them somewhere to live that will keep the community as safe as possible.

“These offenders often have nowhere to go. They have generally burned their bridges with their family,” says CPPS Waitemata Area Manager Alastair Riach.

“Finding them a place to live is all about risk management on a case-by-case basis. We do everything we can to keep the community safe,” he says.

“For example, we avoid placing child sex offenders near schools. But what if an offender has a responsible family member who will take them in and keep tabs on them, but that person lives near a school? Is it less risky for the offender to be there than living alone in a Housing NZ flat, but not so close to a school?

“We must always think through the consequences. If the offender can’t live here – where will they go next?”

CPPS staff weigh up factors such as: proximity to places where children play or walk, previous offending patterns, access to transport and support services, whether the offender has done well in their treatment programme and whether a responsible adult is willing to have the offender living in their house.

“Our best case scenario is for the offender to be able to live with an ‘approved adult’,” says Alastair.

An ‘approved adult’ knows about the offending, understands what high-risk situations are for the offender, and will do their best to keep the offender out of those situations. This might be a family or church member.

If no approved adult can be found, probation officers work with the offender to find somewhere else. Around fifty to eighty offenders a year leave prison to ‘supported accommodation’ – a programme which offers support as well as a place to live.

Alastair says it’s very rare for child sex offenders to be put in motels on release.

“Generally we only use motels for a night or two if a previously suitable address falls over for some reason. Perhaps a family with children moves in next door, or we discover that a previously approved adult was allowing the offender into high risk situations,” he says.

CPPS staff work closely with the Police in all cases where high-risk child sex offenders are released into the community. Neighbours and school principals are advised on a case-by-case basis.

“If an offender is released on parole and is an opportunist we certainly advise neighbours about the ‘stranger danger’ risk,” says Alastair.

Corrections can also seekto impose restrictions on the offender, such as a residential restriction to stay at home when children are on their way to and from school.

With high-risk offenders Corrections can apply to the Courts for an extended supervision order. If granted this means we can monitor the offender for up to ten years (as opposed to the usual six months).

Principal Psychologist Jim van Rensburg, who treats child sex offenders at Corrections’ Te Piriti Unit, says the findings of a recent study highlight the importance of suitable accommodation.

“The study shows that suitable accommodation is the most significant factor in whether child sex offenders will re-offend or not,” he says.

“These findings mean we should focus increasingly on good reintegration planning. Co-operating with CPPS and other community agencies will be essential.”

At June 30 this year there were 496 child sex offenders serving a sentence or order in the community.

Reintegration planning for child sex offenders

What’s new in the literature?
By David Riley, Chief Adviser Psychological Services

It’s always pleasing to report on the publication of work done by Corrections’ staff. It’s doubly pleasing when the research has appeared in the leading criminal justice journal, and won prestigious research awards both in New Zealand and overseas.

Principal author Gwenda Willis, who is an intern psychologist at Corrections’ Kia Marama unit, and her university supervisor Randy Grace, investigated the significance of good reintegration planning for 141 child sex offenders who completed the Department’s Kia Marama and Te Piriti programmes.1

They found that good reintegration planning was a major factor in stopping the men from re-offending.

Specifically, they found that planning for suitable accommodation, employment, and social support were most strongly associated with preventing re-offending.

This piece of research was very well conducted, and a high level of confidence can be placed in these results. Clearly, we need to think about incorporating a measure of the quality of reintegration planning into clinical risk assessments.

We also need to consider how we can improve reintegration planning for child sex offenders who exit our special treatment programmes.

The emphasis in this research on reintegration, as opposed to treatment, is consistent with a growing trend in criminal justice enquiry. It may well be that detailed evaluations of offenders exiting other treatment programmes will also highlight the critical importance of the reintegration process.

1 Willis G. M., and Grace R. C. (2009) – Assessment of community reintegration planning for sex offenders: Poor planning recidivism, Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 36, 494-512.

Thank you and farewell to Pacific Advisory Group

Fa’afetai tele, meitaki ma’ata, malo ‘aupito!

Chief Executive Barry Matthews acknowledges and farewells the members of the Pacific Advisory Group: (left to right) Pastor Taremoana Tauira, Takipo Latuila, Reverend Tom Etuata, Tiresa Siataga, Corrections National Adviser Pacific Leatuavao Viko Aufaga, Chief Executive Barry Matthews, Isa-uana Toelupe, Taliaoa Filipo Tipoai and Reverend Edgar Tuinukuafe. Not present: Reverend Mike Yasa and Maka Toloa.

The Chief Executive Pacific Advisory Group (CEPAG), set up in 2002 as an initiative of the Department’s first Pacific strategic plan, is coming to an end in its present state.

A ceremony to acknowledge and farewell the seven Pacific community leaders and two youth representatives who have helped build strong working relationships between Corrections and the Pacific community was held on September 2.

The Chief Executive will still have a Pacific advisory group but it will be smaller, comprising only three members representing the three main Pacific Island groups which are over-represented in the criminal justice system; Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga.

The change has come about because CEPAG has achieved its objective of building Pacific relationships at a national level. Now it’s time for the regions to develop their own local relationships. In addition, Corrections now has a national Pacific adviser and two regional Pacific adviser positions which were not in place when CEPAG was established.

Some of the initiatives CEPAG has had input into are the establishment of the first prison-based Pacific Focus Unit, the development of the Saili Matagi violence prevention programme and the establishment of the national and regional Pacific adviser positions.

The three new advisory members are currently being recruited.

Minister's column

Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins.When the Government took office last November it inherited a serious capacity crisis in the corrections system.

Under-investment in the prison system over the years has seen the growth in the prisoner population outstrip available prison capacity.

The Government is developing strategies to address drivers of crime which will reduce the prison population over the long term.

However, in the meantime there is no getting away from the fact that capacity is stretched. We need to act quickly if we are to accommodate the prison population in a safe and secure manner.

This has required some quick and innovative thinking about how we can make best use of the prison capacity we currently have, and how we can quickly add more capacity in the short and medium term.

I have been impressed by the openness to new thinking from the Department.

We have reopened Wellington Prison to inject capacity into the prison system.

New construction methods have been developed which we hope will significantly reduce the costs and delivery time of new prison builds.

The most radical of these ideas is the trial of container cells to provide a new modular 60-bed prison unit at Rimutaka by early 2010.

Further down the track there may be an opportunity for prisoners to be involved in the construction of future prison cells.

Prisoners will gain skills and help pay their debt to society, our prisons will get more beds and we will be delivering better value for the taxpayers of New Zealand.

We have also had to look at maximising the use of existing capacity and infrastructure by expanding the use of double-bunking in prisons. Double-bunking will be expanded at existing prisons where the infrastructure exists to support it.
The Government has also provided $3.6 million in funding to provide personal protective equipment and extra training to preserve staff safety once double-bunking is expanded.

Managing the increasing prisoner population is a big challenge, particularly when there is very little time left before we start running out of baseline beds, and money in the public sector is severely limited. But it is a challenge we will have to meet to ensure the safety of staff and the public.

Doing nothing is simply not an option. I know I can count on you all.

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

Keeping Gisborne beautiful

Community Work Supervisor Jay Ngarimu keeps an eye on offenders dead-heading agapanthus in readiness for summer.In the summer hundreds of blue and white agapanthus flowers make for a stunning entrance into Gisborne, thanks to offenders serving community work sentences.

Offenders helped plant the agapanthus about 10 years ago as part of ‘Keep Gisborne Beautiful’ and are still involved in the maintenance of the coastal strip.

Community Work Service Manager Tim Marshall says, “We go once a fortnight to do some work around the area. "We keep the grass down and at this time of the year we de-head the old flowers. "We also do a big clean up before the tourist season starts around Christmas.”

Tim and his team received thanks for their work from ‘Keep Gisborne Beautiful’.

“The committee really appreciates the wonderful work your organisation does in the beautification of this area which draws many favourable comments from locals and visitors alike.”

Over 500 prisoners on 'Release to Work' despite hard times

548 prisoners had Release to Work placements in the last financial year.Reducing re-offending through training and jobs for prisoners.

Edward (not his real name) has been in and out of jail his whole life, mainly living off the proceeds of his many break-ins.

He learned a lot in the prison engineering workshop, but he’d never had a proper job until Canterbury Prisons Release to Work Case Manager Ray Hohipuha found him a Release to Work placement in a local engineering firm.

“He’s been there for 20 months now and he’s done so well he’s been made a supervisor and has up to five guys working under him. The firm are keeping him on now he’s been released on parole,” says Ray.

“I really think he won’t re-offend this time. He’s finally got something good and he doesn’t want to lose it.”

Under the Release to Work programme, carefully selected low-security prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentence are allowed out of prison during the day to work in ordinary jobs in the community. They receive the market wage, but money is deducted to cover their board, court-imposed fines, and child-support payments; remaining money is put into an account they can access on release.

Employers also undergo a background check and the suitability of the type of work, location, and other employees is assessed.

The aim is to provide prisoners with training and a job that they will keep after release, since research shows that ex-prisoners with a job are less likely to re-offend.

With the economic downturn, it’s been getting harder for Ray and his colleagues throughout the country to find placements for prisoners, but they still found work for 548 prisoners last financial year, only down a little from the 607 total of the previous year.

Corrections Inmate Employment Area Operations Manager Phil Harman acknowledges that markets are getting tougher.

“But we’re trying not to let that impact too much on our numbers. We’re running two days of training for Release to Work case managers to hone their skills in persuading prospective employers to give prisoners a go,” he says.

Pegasus Engineering Transport Manager Jason Polson, who employs Edward, says he’d also encourage other employers to give Release to Work prisoners a go.

“Ray always picks good people to send us so it works from an employment point of view. "I also like the Release to Work programme because it means prisoners have to pay board from their wages, so the cost isn’t all falling on the tax-payer.

“It’s good for them to work and contribute to society, and it means they’ve got some money in their pocket when they finally get out and a way of making a living for the future,” he says.