Corrections News Jul-Aug 2009

Chief Executive's comment

Department of Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews.The Department’s recently published Statement of Intent July 2009-June 2010 is a key document that outlines how we will improve public safety by ensuring sentence compliance and reducing re-offending through capable staff and effective partnerships.

The statement is well worth reading for a comprehensive overview of the changing environment in which we work and the initiatives we have in place to deal with the challenges ahead.

The 2009 Budget announcement from the government, and the wider economic picture, will have a huge impact on how we manage offenders in the coming years.

The Budget has provided us with considerable funding to enable our Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) to deal with ever-increasing community-based offender volumes and to improve the quality of service delivery.

Taxpayers need to see us spending their money wisely. They need to have confidence that we will manage offenders effectively and make New Zealand a safer place to live. The formation of the expert panel to improve the management of offenders on parole demonstrates strongly to the public that we are improving CPPS and working towards a culture of continuous improvement.

The Budget has also provided funding to help us manage the forecast increase in prisoner numbers through double-bunking (where two prisoners share a cell). Double-bunking is not a new initiative – in fact, 21 per cent of prison beds are already in shared cells. However, as with any change to usual practice, there are important issues to be considered, especially when the change could have an effect on staff safety and the good order of our prisons.

Corrections is committed to talking these issues through with staff and unions. Given the challenges ahead, we will more than ever need to work together. We also need to be realistic and appreciate the significance of the global recession and its impact on New Zealand taxpayers.

The year is already half over, but I am confident we have a focused and productive six months ahead of us.

Barry Matthews

Fill those roles

Finding the best person for the job just got a little easier with Corrections’ new e-recruitment system. The system will enhance a major recruitment drive to employ more probation officers and corrections officers. Corrections recruitment staff can now post vacancies instantly, and applicants will be able to apply online. There is also a single database of all vacancies and applications and applicants will have the option of using their details for more than one vacancy.

View the current vacancies and opportunities at Corrections

Prisoner art visits Vienna

Five finalist paintings from New Zealand prisoners are winging their way to Vienna for the judging of the second International Prisoners Art Contest initiated by the International Commission for Catholic Prison Pastoral Care. The contest is supported by the United Nations and the Prison Chaplaincy Service of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

One of the top five prisoner art entries which have gone to Vienna for judging.

Budget round-up

The 2009/10 budget contains significant funding to allow Corrections to manage increasing numbers of prisoners and community-based offenders.

Prison Services

An additional $431.7 million has been allocated over four years to help us manage the rising prison population. We currently manage 8,200 prisoners; this is projected to increase to 12,500 by 2018.

Of the total amount, $145.8 million will be used for implementation of increased double bunking (where two prisoners share one cell) at Northland Region Corrections Facility, Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF), Spring Hill Corrections Facility, Otago Corrections Facility and Mt Eden Prison. Double bunking in these five prisons will provide 1,000 extra prison beds.

$255.4 million will go to cover operational costs associated with the increased double bunking. This funding will be used to employ more frontline prison staff, and provide more programmes and other services such as food, bedding, clothing, healthcare and transport to prisoners.

Twenty-four million dollars has been made available for designing and planning a new prison in the upper North Island (possibly at Wiri, next to ARWCF), the extension of Mt Eden/Auckland Central Remand Prison (Stages 2 and 3) and new units at existing prisons.

Community Probation & Psychological Services

An additional $267.7 million funding over four years has been allocated to Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS).

Of the total amount, $138.5 million is to manage the increased demand for the provision of pre-sentence advice and reports to judges and for the management of offenders serving sentences in community.

CPPS will be able to recruit more staff, including:

  • 258 probation officers
  • 65 frontline managers
  • 65 administrative support staff
  • 20 psychologists.

$78.3 million will be used to recruit additional staff to improve the quality of the management of offenders on parole and home detention.

$50.9 million will provide additional accommodation (such as larger offices for the increased numbers of staff), facilities, vehicles, IT equipment and improvements to the computerised offender management system.

Reducing court waiting times

We received $11.1 million so we can cope with a Ministry of Justice initiative to minimise court waiting times in Auckland.

More drug treatment units

We received $11.1 million over the next four years for three additional drug treatment units. These will be available by 2011 and will increase the number of prisoners we can treat from 500 to 1,040 every year.


Big finds in smalls

Vigilant staff at Christchurch Men’s Prison found cannabis in one visitor’s bra, and 37 grams of cannabis in another visitor’s underpants. A third visitor was detained after a package was found concealed in the gatehouse toilet.

“These visitors were found out by a combination of staff vigilance and the ever-present prison drug dogs. Once confronted all visitors handed over their contraband and were arrested by Police who came to the site,” says Christchurch Men’s Prison Manager John Roper.

Twenty-five ‘tinnies’ tumbled

Hawkes Bay Prison staff found 25 ‘tinnies’ of cannabis in the handbag of a woman who had come to visit a prisoner.

“Our staff thoroughly search visitors to the prison regularly. It is great they found this rubbish before there was any possibility of it entering the prison,” says Hawkes Bay Assistant Prison Manager Yvonne Fuller.

“We seized approximately 50 grams of drugs and detained the visitor until Police arrived to arrest her.

“Not only does she face possible charges she is excluded from our site for at least three months. We have zero tolerance
for contraband.”

Hawkes Bay Prison runs one of the Department’s very successful Drug Treatment Units. Prisoners who complete the Drug Treatment Unit programme are 13 per cent less likely to re-offend than an untreated prisoner.

Can you fill in a form or make a family meal?

Forms no obstacle? Corrections needs volunteers to help prisoners with basic life skills such as filling in forms.The recent Volunteer Awareness Week (June 14 - 20) was an opportunity for Corrections to acknowledge the importance of volunteers and encourage more volunteers to join us.

We are especially looking for people who can give their time to teach prisoners basic life skills, hobbies, crafts and cultural activities.

“We need people with normal life skills who can show prisoners how to fill in a bank account form, budget for a family, or do basic cooking,” says Acting National Advisor Volunteers Diane Hallot.

“Many prisoners have had no-one to teach them the things most of us take for granted.”

She says some of the most important things volunteers teach are more intangible, such as social skills.

“They normalise the prison environment by providing contact with the outside world. Almost all prisoners will be released one day, and volunteers help to prepare them for that day.”

She says cultural input from the community is also vitally important.

“We would love to hear from people who speak te reo Maori, and those interested in becoming kaiwhakamana (kaumatua as special visitors to prisons) and fatua pasefika (volunteers who offer cultural support to pacific people in prison).”


Prison puppies help twice over

Golden retriever Echo is not only looking to a rosy future as a mobility assistance dog helping a person with a physical disability - he's also helping his prisoner trainer to turn her life around.Golden retriever Echo is the first mobility assistance dog to graduate from behind bars and enter advanced training in the community.

Trained by a prisoner at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility under the Puppies in Prisons Programme, Echo will soon start work helping a person with physical disabilities.

“Echo is an exceptional dog,” says Jody Hogan from the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust. “He is way ahead of where we would expect him to be.”

There is typically a four-to-five year wait for a mobility dog, so the Puppies in Prison Programme aims to accelerate the number of puppies moving through training – cutting down waiting times.

“Echo’s advanced training will now be considerably shortened, and this is exactly what we have been aiming for,” says Jody.

Research into similar programmes run overseas shows that the prisoners who train the dogs are less likely to re-offend.

“Early results from the programme have been positive. Staff report visible positive changes in the prisoner handlers, who
have all remained incident and drug free during the programme,” says Corrections Policy Advisor Amanda Jones.

Frida, the latest addition to the Puppies in Prison programme.“The programme still has some way to go before its success can be fully evaluated, but it offers potential for future expansion, and may open the door for more animal-based programmes.”

Echo’s fellow puppy prisoners Finn and Ezra are on track to graduate from the programme in November. And as for Echo’s prisoner handler – she’s already got her hands full with Frida, the latest puppy to enter the programme.

For a feature on the mobility dog training at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility, see the June 2009 issue (Number 65) of North & South Magazine.

Agents of change - our Maori Services Team

'When Maori pull together as one, the results have had hugely positive outcomes,' says Maori Services Team National Manager Jon Royal.“The less Maori have to do with the Corrections system, the better.”

This is the message Maori Services Team National Manager Jon Royal wishes to take out to Maori communities.

Jon praises all the great initiatives the Department has implemented over the years to curb the numbers of Maori offenders coming back into the system.

“We have passionate staff, numerous Maori providers, volunteers and local iwi who are committed to working alongside us – but the numbers keep rising.”

Jon believes it’s time communities from where these offenders come from share this burden. He is convinced that if these communities were fully informed of the situation, they would get behind the drive to stop young people from getting into trouble.

“Corrections is merely the bucket. We have no influence over the tap turning off or on.” Jon is referring to the fact that those coming into our system are determined by the Police and courts. “But the communities – families, hapu and iwi, can play a huge role in stopping them getting to us”.

It is well documented that Maori are over-represented in the Corrections system. Over the next few years, Corrections is planning another 3,500 prison beds to cope with the projected growth in offending. 

“This has got to change. It’s why I work here.”

Through his regional teams Jon is finding there are great things happening in communities around the country – a sign that communities are concerned about the high rate of Maori offending and re-offending and are doing something about it.

“But it requires a strategy that pulls everyone together, and also spots any gaps.”  

The Maori Services Team is establishing a national database which will provide a directory of all health and social services around the country and also identify local community ‘hotspots’.        

“If offenders are released into an area where there is little support, my team, along with other parts of the organisation, will work with other agencies and the local community to get services set up.”

Jon is adamant these services should be run by the community rather than Corrections.

“Given our mandate, it is appropriate that the Department retain responsibility for the programmes and services delivered within the system. But it is also appropriate that once offenders leave, Maori take responsibility for keeping our haututu at ‘home’.

“When Maori pull together as one, the results have been hugely positive. Consider Whina Cooper’s hikoi; educational ingenuity like kohanga reo through to the whare wananga; Maori broadcasting – the list goes on.”

Jon is confident that with shared effort and ownership, the rates will come down.

“But if we just leave it to the system, I worry it will get away on us.” 

Jon is married to Maryann and they have four children and one mokopuna. Jon affiliates to Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Kahu, Ngai Tahu, and Ngati Tamatera. He was brought up around his papakainga at Waimango on the shores of Tiikapa moana.

This is the second time Jon has been with the Department.

“My working life philosophy has always been to contribute to the raised wellbeing of Maori.”

The best days of your life

Helping young offenders succeed academically: tutor Kim Knight.Reducing re-offending and improving public and staff safety through education of offenders.

Most teachers would envy a class size of nineteen, although some might be put off to learn the students are young offenders and the classroom is inside the razor wire at Hawkes Bay Prison.

Tutor Kim Knight admits it’s a ‘hard job’ teaching inside the wire, but she is adamant that most of her pupils are intellectually able and keen to do well.

“Almost all of them have very troubled backgrounds and when they first come to the classroom I sometimes have to ask them to leave for bad behaviour, but they’re soon asking to come back.

“They have the same hopes for qualifications and a job that anyone their age has.”

She says she motivates reluctant learners by spending extra time with them and asking them what they want for themselves when they get out of prison.

“I relate what they are learning to the life they hope for. If they want to be a builder, I ask ‘how would you calculate how much wood you need to build a wall this big?’.

“They need, as everyone does, to understand the relevance of education in their lives.”

Corrections has custody of almost 600 prisoners aged between 15 and 19, though most of them are 17 or older. We are obliged to provide all prisoners under the age of 19 with a free education. The majority of them use Correspondence School courses to work towards Unit Standards and National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and most get 20 hours a week  or more in the classroom with a tutor like Kim.

At Hawkes Bay Prison the young prisoners don’t get much of a choice of subjects at first – they have to cover off the basics by attaining a national certificate in either English, maths or computing.

Once they’ve gained a certificate they’re allowed a wider choice.

Maths and legal studies are the two most popular choices (in line with the choices of the general population who do correspondence courses), but Kim says they can choose anything.

“We have students doing French, Maori, Spanish, music, art history, Latin, accounting, business studies, physics … their interests are pretty broad once they’ve learnt how to learn.”

Sixty per cent of adult prisoners fail a basic skills check when they enter prison, and just over half of them have
no formal qualifications.

But Kim says that most of her pupils leave with some form of qualification if they’re there for six months or more. If they’re there for only a short time she looks at their records and tries to help them finish something they’ve started elsewhere.

And not only does the focus on learning mean qualifications – and, in the future, more chance of getting a job – it means better behaviour while in prison, making life easier for our corrections officers and other prisoners.

“We had one young man who was terribly damaged. His family never visited him and he was always fighting and being locked up. "We thought he wasn’t very bright and he always hung to the back in the classroom.

“But we persevered and discovered he was actually extremely bright. He got his National Certificate in six months and went on to tertiary-level business studies. He became very witty and popular – and his behaviour improved immeasurably.”

Perhaps a little learning is not such a dangerous thing.

Tutor teach thyself

The first national training session for youth offender tutors was held in partnership with the Correspondence School in April with the goal of enhancing staff capability and strengthening partnerships.

The tutors ‘talked shop’ such as discussing daily practices for motivating reluctant learners, and made contact with Correspondence School representatives.

“Just to associate with the other tutors and share experiences was great,” said Tutor Michelle Maru from Waikeria Prison.

Shipping container cells under investigation

This cell in a modified shipping container has been built as a prototype. Corrections will make further safety, security and durability modifications before housing prisoners in comparable cells.Corrections is investigating the use a range of prefabricated or modular prison cells, including specially modified shipping containers, as a way to cope with rising prisoner numbers.

Systems and Infrastructure Assistant General Manager Derek Lyons says that modified containers can be developed to meet our needs.

“We’re now going through the design process and examining how we’ll fit them in into our prisons in the future,” he says.

The containers will require suitable infrastructure, such as concrete foundation pads, security fences, and amenity buildings.

Cells made from modified shipping containers will meet the New Zealand standards for prisoner accommodation and be secure and well-insulated.

“They’re part of our overall capacity planning. Modular construction is much faster than traditional construction methods,” says Derek.

Currently, Corrections has approximately 8,200 prisoners and 9,100 beds. We will need extra beds from 2010 onwards to cope with the projected increase in prisoners. By 2018, we expect to need nearly 12,500 beds.

Sharper practice on razor blades

Safety first: Our new razor policy should mean an end to makeshift weapons such as this one recovered by corrections officers.A new Corrections policy that limits prisoners' access to razors will improve staff safety and reduce self-harm in prison.

From May 2009, no high security, remand or youth prisoners have been able to keep razors in their cells. Instead, when they want to shave, they are issued with a single-use safety razor for an hour. Within the hour, a corrections officer collects, checks and disposes of the razor.

The change is in-line with the existing policy for prisoners in ‘At Risk’ units, who are considered likely to harm themselves. When these prisoners shave they are issued a razor, then closely monitored by a corrections officer who stands beside them to ensure they do not harm themselves.

Prison Services Assistant General Manager Dr Brendan Anstiss says the change in policy for high security, remand and youth prisoners is backed up by a pilot study done in 2008.

“We did the study to ensure that restricting access to razors did in fact mean we had fewer incidents – which it did – and to monitor any unintended consequences, such as an increase in the use of other implements for self-harming.”

“Self harm and suicide in prison is a major issue worldwide. Mental disorders and illnesses are up to five times more prevalent among prisoners than in the general population and it is very difficult to stop someone who is set on harming themselves,” says Brendan.

“The suicide rate in New Zealand prisons has fallen nearly 60 per cent in recent years, but we are determined to further reduce the rate of suicide and self harm.”

In 2007, there were 272 razor blade incidents in prisons. The majority of incidents occurred in high security units and 107 incidents involved self harm. Twenty-eight incidents involved razor blades that had been fashioned into weapons. On three occasions razor blades were used against a staff member or other prisoner.

Cooking up a feast

Hungry work: visitors to the Big Youth Day Out work up an appetite for the Corrections-cooked hangi.When Administration Officer Marie Te Ahuru suggested taking part in this year’s Taumarunui Big Youth Family Day Out, everybody at the Taumarunui/Waimarino Service Centre jumped at the opportunity for offenders on Community Work sentences to give something back at such a worthwhile event.

“My Service Manager Frank Mariu and Area Manager Raema Mackay didn’t hesitate when I asked if they thought it was a good idea to help out,” says Marie.

The yearly event brings families together with lots of fun activities such as dancing, face painting and games. This year’s event on 30 May was attended by about 200 people.

Ten offenders were selected to help out. Eight helped with preparations the day before and two assisted staff on the day.

“It was a great day,” says Marie. “Everybody really enjoyed the hangi we made. At first I was asked if I wanted to organise it on my own as I have done a couple of large hangi in the past. But I immediately thought it would be a fantastic chance to present the service centre and get offenders involved. What better way to show that we encourage families and youth to work together?”

“The offenders' families were there and that gave the day an extra dimension, even though they were working hard in the kitchen and didn’t get to see them a lot,” says Marie.

“It was great for all of us to hear that the visitors just loved the food. We’ll be back next year!”

We understand each other

Strengthening partnerships: Seated (left to right) Prison Fellowship New Zealand (PFNZ) Acting National Director Basil Wakelin and Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews. Standing (left to right) PFNZ Operations Manager Barry Timms, Director Rethinking Crime & Punishment Kim Workman, Corrections General Manager Rehabilitation & Reintegration Phil McCarthy and Rehabilitation Manager Development Michael Lovett.Corrections recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Prison Fellowship New Zealand.

The memorandum acknowledges and formalises the cooperative relationship between Corrections and Prison Fellowship and provides ways to promote and manage it.

It recognises that we cannot improve public safety and reduce re-offending on our own and that strengthening our important partnerships is one of the key ways we will achieve these aims.

Prison Fellowship is backed by a solid network of church-based volunteers who make up around 86 per cent of Corrections’ volunteer base.

It also delivers programmes in the cooperatively run faith-based unit at Rimutaka Prison, and offers the Operation Jericho programme in which volunteers mentor ex-prisoners released from the faith-based unit.

Leading the world in violence prevention

Message of hope: Principal Psychologist Kirsty Williams and Unit Manager Wayne Andrews in front of the Panel of Enlightenment - part of a mural by offenders at the Violence Prevention Unit at Rimutaka Prison.A couple of Corrections staff members approached a prisoner in the informal setting of the open grassy space in the middle of the Violence Prevention Unit at Rimutaka Prison. The prisoner was a senior gang member; a huge guy, covered in tattoos, and with 45 previous convictions, eight of them for crimes of extreme violence.

The staff asked him to welcome another prisoner from a rival gang into the unit and show him around.

“No way,” he said, starting to walk away. “I can’t.”

Then he stopped, turned back. “This is part of the therapy, isn’t it? OK, I’ll do it.”

And do it, he did. And very well, too, according to Violence Prevention Unit Principal Psychologist Kirsty Williams.

“Everything we do here is therapy-driven. Basically, treatment starts the moment they walk in the gate, and the whole unit provides the therapy. Every interaction is part of our community of change.”

And the ‘community of change’ approach is helping to reduce re-offending and make our society a safer place to live.

Only 62 per cent of men who finish the programme at the Violence Prevention Unit are likely to be reconvicted of a violent crime, compared with 72 per cent of men who have not done the programme.

“That may sound modest, but considering how exceedingly difficult it is to change violent behaviour – it’s very promising,” says Kirsty.

Dr Devon Polaschek, Associate Professor at Victoria University School of Psychology, says that Kirsty and her colleagues are successfully treating men who are considered untreatable psychopaths by the rest of the world.

“Internationally there’s a lot of interest in the work being done at the VPU because most of these guys would be put in the ‘too hard’ basket in other countries,” she says.

“Countries such as Australia and Canada look to us for correctional rehabilitation initiatives. That’s partly because here in New Zealand we’re lucky enough to have a single unified correctional system with coherent leadership from the top that places an emphasis on rehabilitation.”

Kirsty and her colleagues make initial contact with prospective participants for the year-long programme over the phone.
“We ask them if they want to come, and tell them what we expect of them. We ask ‘Do you think you can do it?’ We also make it clear that we expect mistakes.”

Participants are usually welcomed into the unit one-by-one, with a space of a few days between each new entry. It’s a deliberate technique to ensure each man comes in to an existing positive culture to which he must adapt.

Once in the unit, there is a settling-in period, while the men get used to their group of ten fellow participants. They share the unit with two other groups of ten who are further ahead in the programme.

The main part of the programme runs for about nine months and involves three, three-hour group therapy sessions each week.

“The sessions are just a small part of our community of change,” says Kirsty.

“For example, at one of the unit’s regular informal quiz events involving staff and participants, one of the men may become aggressive because he can’t handle losing. This then becomes an opportunity to address his violence in a real way, within a real world interaction. The staff here are well trained to watch out for signs that someone is still buying into violent ways. We sweat the small stuff.”

“This is the hardest kind of work to do. Most of the men score so highly on the most commonly used measure of psychopathy that we no longer find it useful to use. Yet we do achieve a measure of success.”

The rest of the world might have given up on them, but in New Zealand there is still hope for these men.

More optimism about treating psychopaths

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

Once it became possible to measure psychopathic traits in an offender, researchers were able to demonstrate that psychopaths usually had more extended criminal careers and were more predatory, more exploitative and more violent.

The stereotypical psychopath – that manipulative, deceitful, callous, and remorseless individual – began to be regarded by many practitioners as unsuitable for rehabilitation programmes.

This view received strong support in the early 1990s when an intensive therapeutic programme in a high security facility in Canada was evaluated. Not only did the outcome appear to show that the programme had very limited effects, but also that those individuals who displayed psychopathic traits were much more likely to re-offend than similar individuals who did not take part in the treatment.

At that time these results were interpreted as indicating that psychopaths were untreatable and, in fact, such efforts were likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

Notwithstanding the fact that the programme in question did not correspond to what we now know are the principles of effective correctional practice, the notion of the untreatable psychopath has persisted, and has had significant influences on the administrators, policy makers, parole boards, and others who make decisions in the criminal justice area.

More recent investigations, however, have begun to challenge this traditional notion. In a recent article, Mark Olver and Stephen Wong report on a 10-year follow-up of sexual offenders who were treated in a high security inpatient facility in Canada1.

While psychopaths were more likely to drop out of treatment than their non-psychopathic counterparts, and were more likely to go and commit violent offences, positive treatment changes in this group were associated with reductions in sexual and violent recidivism.

Given that this investigation used reasonably sophisticated analyses, and controlled for the initial level of risk exhibited by these offenders, it would appear that such approaches; structured, cognitive behavioural, and targeting criminogenic factors in the individual, do show real promise.

This most recent article is just one of several which indicates that the prevailing pessimism about treating this problematic group may be unjustified.

Minister's column

Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins visiting a prison in Australia.Over the past couple of months, I have been impressed by simple innovations in Corrections which have made life easier and safer for Corrections staff, the public and offenders.

Innovation doesn’t have to be complex – often the simplest innovations have the most impact.

A great example is the Razor Policy which was implemented in May. High security and remand prisoners are now allowed a disposable safety razor for one hour only when they are shaving. This will help to prevent a significant number of self-harm, assault and contraband incidents which involve razor blades.

Another example of innovation is the Prison Release Teams, which have been in place in CPPS since April, and which I launched in Manurewa on 12 June. The teams will have Probation Officers specialise in the management of offenders who have been released from prison. This will improve the management of offenders recently released from prison on parole and other sentences.

In May, I visited a number of privately managed prisons in Victoria and Queensland. Both states have a small number of privately managed prisons and have been contracting management of prisons for many years (20 in the case of Queensland).

During this time, the private prisons have introduced many new ideas and programmes to the Victoria and Queensland prison systems. The prisons I visited offered niche services, such as special units for intellectually disabled prisoners and programmes for indigenous people.
The prisoners were locked down for fewer hours, had more contact with visitors (365 days at Port Philip Prison) and the opportunity to earn privileges with good behaviour. Some initiatives introduced by the private sectors, such as peer prisoner programmes, have been so successful that they have been adopted by the state-run institutions.

Currently, the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill is being considered by the Law and Order Committee. This legislation will enable privately managed prisons to be established.

Excellent organisations are those that are continuously harnessing innovation, at both an organisational level and at an individual level. Creating an environment that supports innovation is essential.

I am open to considering any idea – no matter how out of the box it is – that improves the safety of staff and the public, and improves the rehabilitation of offenders. If you have ideas about how we can do our work better, please contact the Department of Corrections.

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

Tikanga Maori programme heals birds with broken wings

An Upper Hutt-based tikanga Maori programme is helping Maori offenders look towards a more positive future.

Eighteen offenders serving community sentences attend each programme and despite some of them having committed ‘pretty heavy acts’, Programme Co-facilitator Joy Bullen says all participants benefit.

“The bulk of offenders we see have lost their Maori identity, they know little about Maori culture and have no contact with their tribal roots. We get them to understand and have pride in their origins, which in turn helps them to have pride in themselves,” she says.

Community Probation & Psychological Services Upper Hutt Service Centre Manager Paula Sharpe says the programme is well supported by both the community and staff.

“It’s the only programme I’ve seen where offenders’ families consistently show up for the graduation. Also, probation officers regularly support offenders and facilitators by attending the powhiri, the graduation or just showing up at times throughout the programme. It’s great to see such dedication to the cause.

“We want to offer motivating programmes that inspire offenders and this one always seems to get a good response,” says Paula.

Joy says it's vital for the offenders to recognise the many positive things currently occurring in Maori culture.

“These guys have opportunities previous generations didn’t and once they learn to identify and access these, there is no reason they can’t improve their lives.”

“We saw one young guy who was boasting about the amount of tagging he had done and claiming that Upper Hutt would ‘never be clean again’ after he was released.”

But the programme achieved a notable change in his life.

“After the course he was going up to people in the waiting room of his local probation office telling them how great the course was and that they should enrol in it.

“He didn’t have any direction or goals in his life, but once he learnt about his culture and the opportunities available
to him he really did seem to transform.

“Personal pride is a powerful thing; he just needed a push in the right direction.”

Joy says the key element behind their courses is healing.