Corrections News Mar-Apr 2009

Chief Executive's comment

Department of Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews. The first three months of the year have been challenging ones for the Department.

The Auditor General’s report into the management of parole, and the subsequent report by the State Services Commissioner into who was accountable for the findings and what should be done to restore public confidence, publicly highlighted the need for the Department to lift its game in terms of ensuring staff compliance with policies and procedures.

A number of significant initiatives are already in place to ensure we can regain the confidence of our Minister and the public.

In relation to the Auditor-General’s recommendations, eight have already been addressed and a further 12 are well underway. There are four separate work streams which are intended to ensure; that enough probation officers and managers are available, operational procedures are appropriate, appropriate support is in place for staff, and that there is an organisational culture that supports compliance and individual accountability.

Prompt implementation of the State Services Commissioner’s report is another essential part of taking the Department forward.

In line with the recommendations of the State Services Commissioner an expert panel to review CPPS procedures, decision support tools and performance measures is being established.

We also need to be in a position to demonstrate that our expenditure is directly aligned with the Government’s priorities and that we have actively moved to identify areas where there are opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness.

Accordingly I am leading a value for money review which will identify; opportunities for achieving greater value for money in the Department’s operations within baselines, and what changes could be made to improve the Department’s effectiveness in relation to its core functions, particularly ensuring public safety.

This includes a focus on what would be required to improve adherence to operating procedures and manage risk more effectively.

I have made it very clear that just as I am accountable overall for the Department’s performance, I expect staff and managers to be accountable for their actions and performance. Staff and managers need to act with professionalism and to foster a culture of excellence in their day to day work.

Not your average prison construction job

A crane towers above Mt Eden Prison.Building a new prison on a working site is always going to be a complex job. Building on a small central city site around the daily operations of two of our busiest prisons makes the replacement of Mt Eden Prison particularly challenging.

The Mt Eden/Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) Redevelopment Project is the first of its kind in New Zealand. Never before has Corrections replaced an entire prison – including new accommodation buildings, gatehouse, multi-level car park building and prisoner support building – on the same site as two operating facilities.

Meticulous planning, the co-operation of staff, visitors and the community, and some unusual approaches to site works have been called for. The craning in of a digger over the historic prison wall was a unique sight.

The main construction work for the project started in October 2008 following three months of demolition and site preparation work.

Prison Services Assistant Regional Manager Grace Smit says staff have been fantastic in accepting the numerous changes to their routines and environment.

“Our main concern is always safety and security. This is particularly challenging to maintain when you’re in the middle of a construction site.”

Grace says a construction management plan is in place to minimise effects on prison staff and the local community. The plan ensures there are procedures to control traffic, hours of work and construction effects. It also focuses on tool and machinery security on site and security checking of contractors.

The project team keeps staff, prisoners and visitors updated on key stages and events. Information and opportunities for questions and feedback are also given to those living or working near the site.

For their part, the Fletcher Construction team have found working inside the prison a unique experience. Site Construction Manager Andrew Rolfe says none of his team are likely to forget they’re inside prison walls.

“We’ve worked on secure sites before, but nothing like this. Being surrounded by high fences, security gates and prison buildings, and having a corrections officer assigned to our work area, constantly reminds us where we are.”

Andrew likens the experience to serving a ‘nine-to-five’ sentence.

“We know we need to follow the strict security rules while we’re here. But we also know that at the end of each day we can walk off the site and go home. Working on this project has made us more aware of the realities of being in prison.”

Once the redevelopment is completed, Mt Eden Prison and ACRP will become one integrated prison with one management structure and one set of operating practices.

“The new prison will have enhanced security with a single point of entry that better protects staff and the public,” says Grace.

Closer Parole Board partnership to improve public safety

A parole board hearing in progress.Changes to the working relationship between Corrections and the New Zealand Parole Board should lead to greater public safety.

Following a pre-election commitment by the Government, Prison Services has been working to create stronger communications networks between Parole Board members and senior prison staff.

Corrections is responsible for giving the Parole Board all the information it needs to make an informed decision about the potential for a prisoner to re-offend. Gaps in communication between Corrections and the Parole Board may present a significant risk to public safety.

To address the issue, from March, a prison unit manager will attend Parole Board hearings with their prisoners, in addition to uniformed staff who already attend.

Parole Board Chairman Judge David Carruthers is in favour of the change.

“The Board considers an immense range of material for each offender, and it is vital that we have the most up-to-date information available, so we can accurately assess the risk of the offender.

“Having a member of staff from within the prison attending hearings has always been of great value to the Board. This new change ensures a senior member of staff, who has the most current and relevant information about each offender, is presenting to the Board,” he says.

The General Manager Rehabilitation has attended all extended Parole Board hearings (for the most serious offenders) on behalf of the Chief Executive since 2007. Acting Prison Services General Manager Paul Monk says other measures are also being put in place to encourage communication at a senior level.

“For example, prison managers will now meet with the Parole Board to discuss any issues before the Board convenes, and they may also attend hearings if the Board request it or if they choose to.

“In addition, a Parole Assessment Report will now require approval from the regional manager of sentence planning before it goes to the Board. The managers of sentence planning know what makes a good quality report, so they will do a quality check before the Board get the information.”

Prisoner art at ROAR!

One of the paintings done by prisoners.Wellington’s ROAR! Gallery showed the artwork of several prisoners from the region as part of its ‘Is Seeing Believing?’ exhibition in February.

“Art activities help prisoners make good use of their non-work time. Prisoners can also develop skills, such as persistence, which lead to better job skills,” says Manager of Programmes for Wellington Area Prisons Mary Stenton.

Gallery Manager Gaelen Macdonald says she could have sold some of the works several times over, though under present Corrections’ policy prisoners are not allowed to sell artworks unless they agree to the proceeds going to charity.

“The prisoners’ works are very powerful and visitors have been very interested in them,” she says.

PRIDE awards - celebrating our brightest and best

Representatives of the Whakatane Service Centre Maori Network won a PRIDE award for their successful recruitment wananga.The Corrections annual PRIDE awards are given to staff members who demonstrate the PRIDE values of professionalism, responsiveness, integrity, diversity, efficiency and effectiveness in everything they do.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Wellington on February 26, Chief Executive Barry Matthews thanked the winners for their contribution towards creating an environment of excellence at Corrections.

“The winners are outstanding staff members. They are talented, hard-working and ethical, and their work goes beyond the call of duty,” he said.

Corrections Kaumatua Des Ripi drew an apt metaphor to describe the PRIDE winners from one of the waiata sung at the ceremony.

“The song is about an old bird that shared its feathers with a young bird to enable it to fly again – and that’s what PRIDE at Corrections is all about – sharing knowledge and empowering others,” he said.

This year there were four individual winners and one group award.

The group award went to the Whakatane Service Centre Maori Network for their excellent work in recruitment.

Attracting the right staff is a priority for Corrections, and the Network ran a phenomenally successful public wananga (or information evening) to help local people navigate through the job application process.

The first wananga attracted over 86 attendees and resulted in 19 high-quality job applications for positions as probation officers and community work supervisors. It was so successful that there was no need to advertise further.

Sheryl Overington was Chairperson of the Maori Network at the time and puts its success down to the face-to-face nature of the wananga.

“When you’re looking at the application process at home it’s just you and the computer. We were missing out on excellent people because they were put off by the process,” she says.

Other service centres who need more staff now plan to use the wananga idea as a model.

The other PRIDE award winners were:

Cherryl O’Byrne – Health Centre Manager, Waikeria Prison
Marty Rickard – Catering Manager, Christchurch Prison
George Hinaki – Corrections Officer, Rimutaka Prison
Karl Bethell – Service Manager, Waitakere Probation Service Centre/Community Work Centre

Improving our management of parole

Since the release of the Auditor-General’s report into parole management, Corrections is continuing its focus on improving compliance with procedures.

The Auditor-General’s report examined 100 parole cases in 2008, in four of the 12 Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) areas. This audit included 52 high-risk offenders, and found that procedures had not been followed. The issues generally involved staff not completing procedures in the specified timeframes, or, in some cases, not completing them at all.

Corrections expects to manage over 100,000 sentences and orders in the community this year, 3,700 of which will be parole. This compares with 72,469 sentences and orders, of which 2,898 were parole during the 2006/07 financial year. Currently, 41,950 sentences and orders are being managed at any one time in the community by CPPS staff.

The Auditor-General’s report acknowledges that Corrections’ job is ‘not an easy one’ and points out that offenders on parole ‘often have little experience of complying with time-frames’. He goes on to make 20 recommendations to improve the situation, highlighting five that he sees as a priority.

During 2008, Corrections also reviewed how we handle parole management. We conducted a review of all of the 554 parolees who were identified as high-risk offenders.

Because this was a review across the whole country, which covered a large number of offenders, it helped us clearly identify what the staff compliance issues were and when they happened. We are using this information, along with the findings of the Auditor-General’s report, and those of our own quality assurance systems, to improve our performance.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, in his report into who should be held accountable for the shortcomings in parole management, noted that Corrections has already been working with ‘a consistent and energetic focus’ on compliance issues in the management of parole.

Corrections’ CPPS Plan to Improve Compliance with Procedures for Managing Parole Orders outlines the steps we’ve already taken and the work underway or planned.

The plan details a wide range of specific actions – such as reviewing the Probation Operations Manual to make it easier to read and understand, and training administrative support staff to take on some of the paperwork.

CPPS General Manager Katrina Casey says that while we increased our compliance performance from 60 per cent in November 2007 to 80 per cent in December 2008, it is essential that we continue to improve and doing so is the responsibility of all staff and managers.

“It will only be achieved by managers and staff following the procedures and ensuring that issues are clearly identified and addressed in a timely manner,” she says.

“Our focus must be firmly on public safety and following our own procedures is a critical part of this.

“Accountability applies at every level. Every manager and staff member must take a greater responsibility for following the procedures. This is the best protection against an incident occurring with an offender under your supervision.

“Incidents will, of course, still happen, given the nature of the offenders we manage and their attitudes and behaviours.
"However, we need to be sure we have not contributed to any incidents, either through what we have done or more particularly what we have not done. For example, by not taking timely enforcement action which could have led to the offender not having the opportunity to commit further crime and create additional victims.

“I know most probation officers and their managers have been working under a great deal of pressure for some time and I am well aware of the considerable effort most staff put in every day when managing the most difficult and challenging members of our society.

“It is very clear what our challenge is and very clear that our primary aim is to protect public safety. We can best do this by focusing on an offender’s compliance with the conditions of their sentence or order, with our rules and by taking timely action when an offender does not comply.

"Ensuring we follow our procedures in managing offenders is mandatory and removing the barriers to staff doing so is a very critical priority for us.”

Membership of Expert Panel Announced

In line with the recommendations of the State Services Commissioner an expert panel has been established to review CPPS procedures, decision support tools and performance measures.

The expert panel will be chaired by Paula Rebstock, previous chair of the Commerce Commission, who brings with her a wealth of experience and expertise in both the commercial and public sectors.

Members of the panel include Peter Hughes, currently Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development with extensive experience in service delivery with a focus on compliance; Andrew Bridges, UK Chief Inspector of Probation with HM Inspectorate of Probation; and senior CPPS staff Tracy Mellor and Monique Cunningham to provide internal expertise.

The plan to improve parole management - four main areas

The CPPS Plan to Improve Compliance with Procedures for Managing Parole Orders is split into four main areas of work. Work has already started on the actions required to make these things happen:

1 - To ensure resources are available to manage the volume of work

  • The nature of the gap between demand for probation services and availability of staff is identified

  • Additional resources are sought from Government to close any significant gaps

  • The service is using existing resources as efficiently as possible, reducing the need for additional staff

  • Procedures are reassessed and reduced when the resource gap is significant so that there is a consistent approach to identifying the tasks not done

  • Efficient and effective recruitment processes are in place

  • Workload pressures of staff are recognised and managed

2 - To ensure that procedures and systems are appropriate, easily understood and well communicated

  • The procedures staff are required to follow are simple, clear and focus on effective delivery of service
  • The operational manuals are easy to navigate so that procedures are easy to find
  • Mechanisms are in place for effective communication to managers and staff about changes in procedures
  • The support provided by the computer systems is effective.

3 -To ensure support is in place for probation officers and managers, including training, organisational structure and administrative support

  • The training for new probation officers appropriately emphasises quality of service delivery
  • Specialist training is available for managing high risk offenders on parole
  • Refresher training is available for probation officers who have either not been through the curriculum or have had more than three years experience
  • Training is provided on the computer system for all staff following the systems redesign
  • Training is developed for new managers regarding their roles in managing service delivery quality.

4 - To ensure there is an organisational culture that supports compliance with procedures and accountability

  • The management structure appropriately supports effective management oversight of service quality, in particular to ensure that staff comply with procedures and exercise effective judgement in the management of offenders
  • Managers and staff adopt a culture that recognises the importance of compliance with procedures
  • There are appropriate consequences when manager and staff do not follow procedures
  • Appropriate support is in place for managers and staff who struggle to follow procedures
  • Communication is effective and always addresses the reasons why procedures are important or changes are being made, linking them back always to public safety
  • Specification of performance standards so that they appropriately reflect expectations and accountabilities on the Probation Service
  • Alignment of measurement and reporting systems to focus on the key performance standards
  • Alignment of management meeting discussions at each level in the structure to reflect the key performance standards and accountabilities
  • Alignment of individual performance agreements to the performance standards and accountabilities of the Service.

Further information

The Community Probation & Psychological Services Plan to Improve Compliance with Procedures for Managing Parole Orders can be viewed here (PDF: 875KB)

New law to help block contraband and threatening letters

Parliament has passed new legislation giving Corrections greater powers to stop people smuggling contraband into prisons, and to stop prisoners using cell-phones and sending threatening or crime-related letters.

The Corrections Amendment Act (No. 2) 2009 was brought into force on 3 April and gives Corrections additional search and detection powers, especially in relation to drugs and cell-phones.

The Act was partly driven by new cell-phone technology, and authorises Corrections to use detection and jamming equipment in prisons – equipment which is already being widely used.
Under the new law, the penalty for prisoners who possess or use a cell-phone is up to three months in prison, a fine of up to $5000, or both. Staff and visitors who are caught with unauthorised cell-phones will be subject to the same penalties.

The Act also enhances existing powers to strip-search prisoners and conduct random searches of the prison.

The other main provision of the Act extends Corrections’ ability to read prisoners’ mail. Currently, prison staff open every item to check for contraband, but are only allowed to read a prisoner’s mail if they have reasonable grounds to suspect, for example, that the prisoner is corresponding about something unlawful.

However, the new law will allow officers to read all mail, except correspondence with members of Parliament and official agencies such as the Courts. One of the main aims of this provision is to stop prisoners sending letters that could threaten or distress their victims.

Manager Service Support Karen Urwin says the mail was becoming ‘the weakest link’.

“As our cell-phone jamming and detection became better, some prisoners reverted to the mail to organise crimes or send malicious messages. Now we can stop them before they can do any more harm.”

Team Leader National Systems – Prison Services Damien Aupa’au says Corrections is already well prepared for the Bill’s new provisions.

“We knew the Act was likely to go through so we’ve already organised the necessary training and communications to prison staff,” he says.

Other provisions of the Act include: limiting the Crown’s liability in an emergency situation (such as an epidemic, civil defence emergency or specific prison situation); allowing Corrections to disclose information on the highest risk offenders to enable a co-ordinated response by Corrections, Police and social agencies; and allowing prisoners a mouthful of communion wine during religious services.

The Corrections Amendment Act (No 2) can be found on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Sharing the knowledge to prevent crime

Professor Richard Wortley.Prison managers and intelligence officers were recently given the benefit of expert knowledge on crime science and how they can use it to further reduce crime and incidents in prison.

Head of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffiths University in Queensland, Professor Richard Wortley gave an informative lecture to prison staff on the situational model of crime.

“The situational model examines the entire picture related to a crime, with questions like ‘Why did the crime occur at this time, in this prison, at this unit?’” says Professor Wortley.

“Crime in prisons, as in the community, is not random but patterned. Humans are very complex, so it is often easier to predict where and when a crime will occur than who will offend.

“By looking at where a crime occurs we can reduce factors that enable that crime such as poor lighting or poor camera coverage.”

Prison staff and the Department’s intelligence teams work constantly to prevent criminal behaviour and the lecture gave them further insight into how they might assess intelligence and issues in their prisons.

“As well as encouraging us to look at all the aspects of an incident, rather than just focusing on the individual offender, I also found the 80/20 rule very interesting,” says Rolleston Prison Manager Mike Howson.

“The 80/20 rule highlights that 20 per cent of prisoners cause 80 per cent of the issues. We can look at these individuals and their activities to gain useful information on prison crime.”

The situational model is not new to Corrections. Psychological Services are currently engaged in a study to look at what situational factors can be manipulated to reduce crime in New Zealand prisons.

Leaving Struggle Street

A new Corrections-run community-based programme aims to turn young male offenders away from a life of crime.A new Corrections-run community-based programme for young male offenders is aiming to improve public safety by turning offenders away from a life of crime.

Senior Psychologist Bronwyn Moth says the pilot programme was run in Christchurch and was completed successfully late last year.

“Corrections already runs rehabilitation programmes for young offenders who are in prison, but this programme targets those who are in the community,” she says.

Around 25 per cent of young people will commit an offence, and young offenders have the highest rates of re-offending in the country.

“Most young people ‘grow out of’ offending, but a small group – around three per cent of male offenders – will go on to become persistent offenders for most of their lives. The new programme is aimed at members of that three per cent who have a medium risk of re-offending,” says Bronwyn.

Advanced Programme Facilitator Nazea Silbery, who has worked with young offenders in prison programmes for several years, says studies show that programmes that put medium-risk young people together with high-risk offenders can actually increase the likelihood that the medium-risk group will become entrenched in a life of crime.

“So choosing the right people to do the programme is very important. Evidence shows that programmes must be targeted to work properly,” he says.

Six young men, ranging in age from 17 to 20, started the pilot programme, which ran over 43 two-and-a-half hour sessions, with additional sessions for family/whanau involvement. The programme aimed to stop their offending by challenging the justifications they made to excuse their offences, and by teaching them pro-social skills such as problem-solving, anger management and communication skills.

The six youths all had drug and alcohol abuse problems, and all except one had been significantly physically and verbally aggressive to others.

“Some had unhelpful personality traits, two had self-harm issues, and most came from very unstable family situations, at times involving violence,” says Bronwyn.

“It will give you some idea of their situations to know that only one participant was able to turn up consistently with a reasonable standard of hygiene. Frequently, they had not eaten in more than 24 hours, so the morning tea we offered was crucial in helping them maintain concentration.

“However, they recognised they all came from ‘Struggle Street’, as they called it, and had care and concern for each other. As the group formed, they showed a growing ability to change and give each other good advice.”

She says that of the six participants to start the pilot programme, four completed it successfully. Two had to leave the programme, one for too many absences and the other for erratic behaviour that was disrupting the rest of the group.

“It’s far too early to say that the four who completed the programme will never re-offend, but the pilot programme finished in September 2008 and none of them have re-offended yet (at February 2009). That’s not a very long time, but young people often offend again straight away so it’s a promising sign.”

Bronwyn, Nazea and their colleagues will run the programme again, starting in May this year.

“The pilot went well, but we need to keep refining and developing it,” says Bronwyn.

“For example, most participants needed help with finding somewhere suitable to live. One was sleeping on the sofa in an already over-crowded house, another was sleeping on the street. So we’re exploring options to help them with housing, employment, and so on, before they enter the programme – that would enable them to concentrate better on turning their lives around.”

A few words from ...

Associate Minister of Corrections Hon Dr Pita Sharples talking to prisoners at Rimutaka Prison.Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Associate Minister of Corrections

I am very pleased to be appointed Associate Minister of Corrections. To be honest, I asked the Prime Minister for this portfolio.

My reasons go back to the fact that I have been involved with prisons since the so-called ‘Paremoremo riots’ of the early 1970s.

Recognising that there are very limited opportunities available for rehabilitation in the fullest sense unless there are links beyond our prison communities, I have had a wide range of input to the system. These include ‘mana talks’, tikanga Maori lessons, taiaha classes, te reo Maori classes, seminars, rehab lectures and visiting kapa haka programmes.

I have also been involved in numerous wananga and programmes such as Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS) programmes, prison reform submissions, Parole Board discussions and the like.

I helped design the final form of the Maori Focus Units (the first being at Hawkes Bay Prison) and I now have in mind a new model of kaupapa Maori institution designed for rehabilitation, with an emphasis on healing, education, training and outside social support.

Right now, ministers across the Justice and Social Development sectors are working together to address the drivers of crime. The Department’s focus on ‘succeeding for Maori offenders’ complements that approach, and I look forward to seeing the results of this work.

My goal is to cut reoffending rates. I acknowledge the huge efforts being made in this area and the dedication of whanau members, community and government agencies reaching out earlier, and perhaps preventing offending from taking place, with fewer victims as a result.

The biggest challenge, though, will be to influence public understanding about the role of Corrections. Many people believe that justice has been done when offenders complete their sentence. But surely it is common sense that, sooner or later, offenders have to be safely reintegrated with their whanau and community – and that’s everyone’s job.

All New Zealanders will continue to be casualties of crime, until everyone starts to accept some responsibility for our system of depriving offenders of their rights and liberties, and the corresponding obligation to help restore offenders to full membership of society.

The ultimate answer to rising crime and punishment lies within each of us.

Minister's column

Corrections Minister Judith Collins with newly graudated corrections officers Sean Francis and Miller Slade.Time flies – almost half a year has already passed since I became the Minister of Corrections.

Over that time, I have been able to make a number of visits to see the good work that front-line staff do across Corrections.
I have been impressed by the professionalism demonstrated by probation officers, corrections officers and Corrections Inmate Employment instructors that I have talked to.

You will have seen in the media that I have a strong expectation that the Department will build a culture of excellence in its role to protect public safety. I believe there is a strong foundation of this culture of excellence in the professionalism exhibited by all staff across the wide diversity of roles in Corrections.

Professionalism is about setting high standards, having high expectations of yourselves and doing the right thing, day in day out. Public safety is at the centre of all your decisions about how you do your work.

Recently I had the pleasure to attend the graduation of new corrections officers. It was great to see so much pride and enthusiasm in these graduates. Theirs is an important job that requires an incredible amount of skill, responsibility and, at times, courage.

It’s the same at all levels of the organisation. No matter what your role within the Department, there is a shared responsibility for keeping the public safe and rehabilitating those prisoners who have shown a commitment to turning their lives around.

There are things that can be done better, and there probably always will be. But improvement should be a process that is welcomed, encouraged and which is ongoing. It is the responsibility of all staff to suggest and make improvements, because you know your job best and how it can be done more efficiently.

I have asked the Chief Executive and his management team to develop ways of collecting and responding to these ideas. I have also encouraged the PSA and CANZ to provide improvement ideas. I will do my part by promoting legislative or procedural changes that are required to make improvements.

The corrections system is an incredibly important one, given it contributes directly to the safety of the New Zealand public. Our roles in Corrections need to be done well. They need to be done with enthusiasm. They need to be done with pride.

This is the culture of excellence that I am promoting.

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

Faith and humanity in Waitangirua

The Sila family outside their new home.On 7 March a deserving Waitangirua family moved into their new home, built with the help of prisoners from Rimutaka Prison’s Faith Based Unit (FBU).

The work was done in partnership with the international not-for-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity, which aims to provide simple, decent housing for people who would otherwise be unable to afford it.

The Sila family acknowledged the work of the prisoners and other volunteers when they received the keys to their new home

“I’m overwhelmed, it’s hard for me to say what this means to us. I can’t thank Habitat and all the volunteers enough,” said Mrs Sila.

The prisoners have been helping at the house each week since early October last year.

“Prison Fellowship New Zealand asked if we could help Habitat for Humanity build the house and we jumped at the chance to get involved in such a worthy cause,” says Acting Rimutaka Prison Manager Richard Symonds.

“The FBU has two community work parties of twelve specially selected minimum security prisoners who go into the community five days a week to work. As well as working on the Habitat house they maintain 17 churches in the area.”

Research shows that prisoners who gain meaningful employment upon release are less likely to re-offend.

“These work parties are extremely important in giving these prisoners skills and routines they’ve never had before. Many of these guys have never worked in a steady job and kept ‘normal hours’. With the work parties they get up each morning, have their breakfast and head out to work just like they would in the community,” says Richard.

Habitat for Humanity Project Manager Bruce McLean speaks highly of the FBU work parties and the help they have given to this house.

“If you total the hours these prisoners have done they are our biggest labour support by a long way. They are enthusiastic, polite and interested in what we are doing here and I think it has been beneficial for all involved,” he says.

“Getting regular volunteers along can be difficult. It is great to have a labour force we can rely on. They are ready to go as soon as they arrive, they don’t need much guidance from me. Even the work parties’ corrections officers have pitched in and helped. It has been a great team effort.

“I would have the FBU work gangs back to help me any time. They have been excellent.”

Cooking, growing, cutting, sewing and roading

Over 30 prisoners have recently gained national qualifications through Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE), including:

  • Seven prisoners from Christchurch Men’s and Rolleston Prisons graduated with National Certificates in Cookery
  • Five prisoners from Christchurch Women’s Prison received Level 2 National Certificates in Horticulture, and one prisoner received a National Certificate of Textiles in both Cutting and Sewing
  • Eighteen prisoners from Spring Hill Corrections Facility were awarded Civil Construction (Roading) Certificates.

Positive Te Matatini presence

Corrections staff collected details from 70 people interested in careers at Corrections when they fronted a recruitment stall at Te Matatini, the country’s largest kapa haka festival, in Tauranga in February.

The longest day

Teaching co-operation and leadership skills at Christchurch Men's Prison Youth Unit.Young prisoners from Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit had the second of their monthly longest day competitions in late February.

Youth Unit Manager Robbie Risdon says the Longest Day is an officer training course used by the army, which teaches team work and leadership by challenging participants to work together to achieve their goal.

“It is important to give these boys constructive challenges like this,” he says.

“Their challenge was to negotiate an obstacle course devised by Unit staff carrying a number of objects.

“The team leaders had to work with their team and problem solve how they might negotiate the course the fastest."

The competition was the idea of Corrections Officer Nick Rongokea, a former army assistant physical training instructor.