Corrections News Jul-Aug 2010

Chief Executive's comment

Department of Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews. For better or worse, Corrections is a growing department.
At the NZ Herald’s ‘Mood of the Boardroom’ conference in early July, Finance Minister Bill English said that Corrections is set to become the largest government department in terms of staff in two or three years. Across all our groups and services we already have the equivalent of nearly 7200 staff and this is set to grow as offender numbers increase.

My Executive Team and I are well aware of these facts, and it is this growth that we are readying the Department for now.

As well as employing more probation officers and corrections officers, you are probably aware that over the past year we have been re-structuring and running various change programmes under the banner of The Way Forward Performance Improvement Programme.

Some of the changes we have made have involved a fundamental re-think of the way we do things – from changes to the way Community Probation Services assess the risk of an offender re-offending, to outsourcing much of our IT. Some of the changes have been more about refining and finding efficiencies in areas that were already performing well.

All this activity will help to ensure we are set to meet the challenges ahead. But the change won’t stop there. We are also creating a culture of continuous improvement at Corrections. We want an organisation where new ways of being effective with offenders are embraced. In fact, if new ideas and new research uncover ways we can reduce re-offending and improve public safety, then we are duty bound to put them into practice.

Although change can be exciting, it is not always easy, especially for staff whose jobs are affected. I am well aware of the human impact of restructures, and as I’ve travelled around our prisons, service centres and offices I’ve been struck by the attitude of most staff, who, despite the re-structure, are continuing to do their jobs with enthusiasm and dedication.

Barry Matthews

Shipping container cells open

The 'container' cell unit at Rimutaka Prison. Photo courtesy of Mark Mitchell, NZ Herald. Prisoners started to move into a new ‘container’ cell unit at Rimutaka Prison near Wellington from June 10. Unit 11 is the first prison unit in the country to be built from modified shipping containers. The unit has been faster and cheaper to build than a comparable, traditionally constructed unit and will help Corrections to manage increasing prisoner numbers. The unit will house up to 60 low-medium security prisoners in a mix of double and single bunked cells.

Waikeria Prison CIE Catering Team win

For the second year running, Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) catering staff celebrated winning the Excellence in Training Workplace (Food Services/Catering) award at the Hospitality Standards Institute Awards. This year, the Waikeria Prison catering team took top honours, with the previous winners, the Canterbury Prisons Catering Team, making the finals. “CIE are providing prisoners with the chance to gain real, usable qualifications and this can only be an advantage to the hospitality sector. Last night’s win for Corrections really illustrates that their training is up there with the best being offered in New Zealand,” said Hospitality Standards Institute Chief Executive Steve Hanrahan.

Clearing the air

The fire that damaged this prison cell was deliberately lit by a prisoner. The smoking ban will include a ban on cigarette lighters and matches and will help to stop prisoners deliberately setting fires. Come 1 July 2011, tobacco, cigarette lighters and matches will become contraband for prisoners.
The smoking ban for prisoners was announced last month and the 12 month campaign to prepare and encourage prisoners and staff to give up smoking has begun.

“Prisoners are three times more likely to smoke than the rest of the community, 67.1% of prisoners smoke which equates to around 5,837 individuals. The high level of smoking and resulting second-hand smoke poses a serious health risk to prison staff and other prisoners.
The ban will address these issues in a responsible way,” says Chief Executive Barry Matthews.

The total prisoner smoking ban will be the most effective option to manage the health risks associated with smoking and the safety risks associated with prisoners misusing tobacco, lighters and matches.

“The policy announcement has, not surprisingly, been met by significant media coverage and public debate. It’s been interesting to see that the majority of staff comments have questioned why they will still be permitted to smoke on site and how we are going to ensure staff safety is not compromised by frustrated prisoners wanting a smoke,” says Barry.
“I would like to take this opportunity to address these questions.”

“Firstly, while we want to improve the health and safety of staff and prisoners, we need to treat custodial staff the same way we treat staff in other areas of the Department.

“We know it’s not always easy for Corrections officers to leave prison sites to smoke so we’re investigating where to put designated smoking areas for staff. Some of these may be outside the prison wire.

“Secondly, we are committed to ensuring staff safety is not compromised, and that is why we have dedicated a year to preparing prisoners for the change.
“We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Quit Group to ensure that a range of smoking cessation support is on offer to prisoners and staff over the next 12 months.”

More information about how the smoking ban will be implemented and the cessation support on offer will be communicated over the next few months.


Three prisoners with grounds-keeping duties have had their security classifications reviewed and now face the likelihood of police charges after a drug-smuggling attempt. The prisoners from Christchurch Women’s Prison were foiled in their attempt to introduce drugs to the prison using a wheelie-bin.

logo crimestoppersKnow something about a crime?

From June 21, Crimestoppers NZ has been providing prisoners with an anonymous and safe way to report crime from within prison.

Calls to the 0800 555 111 Crimestoppers line are free to make from prisoner payphones across the country, and are exempt from telephone monitoring – a system where prisoner’s calls are recorded and monitored by Corrections staff. Calls to Crimestoppers are currently answered in London.

Members of the public can also ring the Crimestoppers line, secure in the knowledge that they will remain anonymous.

Crimestoppers NZ has been operating in New Zealand since September 2009, and was launched with full the support of Police. It was modeled on the UK service which has run successfully for over 20 years. Since then, Customs and the NZ Insurance Council have also aligned with the organisation.

The Crimestoppers service replaces the JailSafe number which was previously run by Corrections.

Home detention

Case by case – sentences explained

This column profiles a typical offender and introduces you to the processes we follow to manage their sentence.

Sentence - Home detention

Offender profile*

Name: Tane
Age: 19 years old
Occupation: Unemployed
Offence: Assault with a blunt instrument
Sentence: Home detention for eight months, including the special conditions not to consume alcohol or drugs, to attend a drug and alcohol programme, a tikanga Mäori programme and to engage with Corrections Psychological Services.
Managed by: Upper Hutt Service Centre, Wellington region.
Situation:  At the time of his arrest Tane was living with youth gang member associates and so this address wasn’t approved by his probation officer. Instead, he’s serving his sentence at his grandmother’s house. Tane’s previously served two community work sentences and a sentence of supervision – none of which he complied with.

* This profile is based on details from several offenders who are serving a sentence of this kind.

The Corrections team

Tane’s sentence of home detention has brought him in to contact with:

Probation Officer Marina Karaitiana. Probation Officer Marina Karaitiana

Marina wrote a pre-sentence report on Tane for the judge, recommending home detention. Because he has a high risk of re-offending she sees him twice a week – once when he reports in to the Service Centre, and once when she visits him at home. She asks Tane questions to check whether his risk of re-offending is increasing, helps him set goals and motivates him to find work. She also checks with his grandmother to corroborate everything he tells her.
She also referred Tane to see a Corrections psychologist, to a community agency to receive drug counselling, to a tikanga Mäori programme, and to the local Orongomai Marae social services programme, which will help Tane with family support meetings.
Marina also liaises with the Electronic Monitoring company that monitors Tane. He has to wear an anklet so the company knows where he is at all times. If Tane breaks his curfew an alarm will go off, the monitoring company will go around to his address and if he’s not there they’ll contact the Police.

Elizabeth WaddingtonSenior Psychologist Elizabeth Waddington

Because of his youth and high risk of re-offending, Elizabeth began to see Tane for an hour once a week almost as soon as he started his sentence. She spent the first appointments getting a good understanding of his background and needs. Now they are working through a treatment plan to address Tane’s offending, including anger management and what to do in high-risk situations. Many of Tane’s family are in a gang or have gang connections, and Tane’s motivation to change is not great – he thinks it likely that he will re-offend and spend time in prison like his older brother – so Elizabeth is also working with him to expand his motivation to change. If his motivation does not improve she will stop seeing him and focus her efforts on someone who is more likely to benefit from her help.

Service Manager Dan Giles Service Manager Dan Giles

Dan is the after-hours contact for Tane. Tane rang Dan one night with a request to attend the tangi of a friend’s sister in Hamilton that night.
Dan declined until Marina could confirm the situation the next day, but after investigating she discovered that Tane hardly knew the deceased or her family and so declined permission. Tane was furious, but his grandmother calmed him down and he did not break his home detention curfew.

Second change milestone for Community Probation Services

Fitting an electronic monitoring anklet to an offender on home detention. On 1 July, probation officers began managing offenders serving sentences of home detention and post detention orders in a new way.

Using a new ‘integrated practice framework’, staff no longer follow detailed procedures, but focus on mandatory requirements of the sentence/order and on making sound judgements and decisions, guided by a supported decision framework.

The milestone is the second for the Community Probation Services Change Programme 2009-2012, which will redesign the way offenders on all community sentences and orders are managed. Probation officers managing offenders on parole are already working with the new practice framework.

The new approach clearly identifies which actions are mandatory versus areas where probation officers need to use their professional judgement. Staff also have the use of a new tool to help them assess dynamic risk of likelihood of re-offending and risk of harm to others. This helps guide decisions and together with ensuring a strong focus on sentence/order integrity, means better outcomes.

The new approach also supports staff to use their professional judgement by giving them an on-line ‘Practice Centre’. Staff can access the mandatory standards for each sentence/order, a supported decision framework to help decide the most appropriate action, and a knowledge bank of articles and tools to expand their understanding.

Maori Area Advisors - building pathways for rehabilitation

Partners in rehabilitation: Riki Cherrington, Kaumatua Tutor for Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Invercargill and Area Advisor Maori Phil Ngeru. Strengthening partnerships to succeed with Maori offenders

Corrections Maori Area Advisors bring communities and Corrections together to help Maori offenders transition to an offending free lifestyle.

“Working with local communities to convince them that they need to participate in reducing Maori recidivism is one of the main challenges of our role,” says Otago based Area Advisor Maori Phil Ngeru.

“We help communities understand that working together to promote pro-social behaviour for Maori benefits everyone.”

”My role relies on an ability to build social pathways between the community and the Department. I get to know key people, organisations and activities in my area that will help offenders turn their lives around. This allows me to be a resource for both Corrections and the community.”

Riki Cherrington is one local provider that Phil works closely with. Riki is the Kaumatua tutor for Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Invercargill, and provides tikanga and te reo programmes to Invercargill prisoners.

“Many southern Maori prisoners whakapapa to iwi and hapu further north, and Riki’s work is about connecting them to their identity through their reo,” says Phil.
“Riki’s calm teaching of te reo helps offenders see themselves in a positive light, giving them confidence in their identity and new skills that improve their motivation to move away from offending.”

Phil works with many Maori prisoners on their release, putting them in touch with local networks, such as Te Oruanui Marae at Ohai, a small town in rural Southland.

Since opening in 2003 the marae “has become the hub of the community,” says local kaumatua Jim Malcolm.

“We offer community services such as alcohol and drug counselling, free community health checks and whanau ora, ’stopping violence‘ courses, educational referrals, community law, and sporting activities – pretty much everything,” says Jim.

“Having people like Phil to work with is great, as prisoners are often unsure what services are available to them on release. Phil can point them in our direction, or link them up with one of his colleagues in their home region to help them access services like ours.”

Beating addiction to drugs and alcohol

Offering hope to prisoners with addictions: Clinical Manager Kevin Pearce. “It’s about personal choice,” says John*, a prisoner at Otago Corrections Facility who, in June, graduated with 13 others from the first shorter drug treatment programme. “It’s a test right from the start,” he adds, “a test to see if you’re serious about getting off drugs and alcohol.”

The new shorter drug treatment programme started in March in a temporary facility while the new drug treatment unit was built. The Minister opened the permanent unit in June, making it the newest of seven drug treatment units around the country.

Unlike the existing drug treatment units, the new unit will primarily help prisoners with shorter sentences, who were previously excluded from drug treatment programmes because of the brevity of their sentences.
The new programme is only 16 weeks long (the longer programme is six months) with three phases plus a pre-commitment phase. Each phase is four weeks long with the prisoners having to pass the pre-commitment phase, before they can start the programme.
“The pre-commitment phase is a chance for us to further assess if a prisoner is ready to make the change,” says Clinical Manager Kevin Pearce.
“It’s definitely not a walk in the park. In those first four weeks, they really have to show us that they are serious and ready to make the change. If they don’t, they don’t go through.”

A prisoner’s first challenge is to commit themselves by standing up in front of their peer group and telling them why they’re ready to go through this programme and why they’re ready for change. Like many of us, prisoners too have a fear of public speaking.
“Getting up in front of strangers and telling them about why I’m ready to change was really hard at the beginning,” reflects John, “but it did get easier and by the end I was really comfortable talking in front of the group.”

Those prisoners who do make it through the programme learn more about themselves and how to successfully give up drugs and alcohol. Education modules include:

  • how to manage their anger
  • identifying their values and beliefs
  • understanding and being aware of their emotions and feelings
  • self awareness – the cycle of addiction and the wheel of change.

At any time there are 60 prisoners at various phases of the programme, with a maximum of 15 prisoners in each phase.

“Each phase requires different levels of commitment from the prisoners, with prisoners in phase three becoming role models to those still in phases one and two,” explains Kevin. “And if we feel they’re not ready to progress at the end of each phase, we get them to repeat the phase again.

“By the time prisoners finish phase three, they will have a robust plan for how they’re going to stay on track once they’re back in the community. That plan includes contacts in the community where they can find help if they need it,” continues Kevin.

“Chances are many will relapse and probably come back to prison, but if this programme can help just one prisoner beat addiction then that’s a huge success, not just for them and their family but for the community too.”

Two more drug treatment units (at Whanganui and Auckland Prisons) offering the shorter programme are due to open during 2011. When these are up and running, Corrections will have doubled the number of prisoners receiving drug and alcohol treatment from 500 (in 2009) to 1,000 a year.*
* Actual name altered to protect privacy of the prisoner.

Talkers, targets and transit-points

Finding patterns to beat crime: National Intelligence Manager Rick McKee.

Improving public and prison safety through intelligence work

Staff from a certain prison unit have told the Corrections Prison Services Intelligence Team about a ‘talker’ – a prisoner who, for various reasons, is keen to give information. What does he know? Is he telling the truth?

The Intel Team notice a pattern; certain prisoners are trying to engineer transfers to a specific prison. Could they be planning an attack on a high-ranking member from a rival gang who is held at that prison?

In another prison, by listening to the phone-calls of a known prison drug-dealer, the Intel Team have discovered that drugs are changing hands in a certain place on the prison grounds. What can be done to stop prisoners using this drug transit-point?

These, and issues like them, are the daily bread-and-butter of National Intelligence Manager Rick McKee and his team of 35 staff around the country.

“There are patterns to crime. We look for these patterns and target the conditions that are being exploited,” says Rick.

“We look at three main areas: hot locations – such as if prisoners all want a job near a place where it may be possible to throw contraband over a fence; hot offenders – such as people who are likely to be planning escapes; and hot targets. These might be victims – people we know are likely to be targeted because of who they are or what they’ve done, or commodities – those items which are desirable.”

“We then pass information and advice on to prison management, empowering them to make smart, informed, decisions. Our aim is to improve both prison and community safety.”

The information comes from a range of sources, including staff, prisoners, patterns of behaviour, external sources and agencies and the monitoring of prisoners’ mail and phone calls.

Prisoners make well over a million phone calls a year, so random monitoring would be ineffective.

“Every call we monitor is intelligence-led,” says Rick.

“Prisoners and the people they’re calling hear a recorded message telling them the call may be monitored, but they still think they can get away with crimes. We aim to prove them wrong.”

And what of the ‘talker’? What motivates one prisoner to dob in another?

“Some people just want to talk,” says Rick.

“Sometimes they genuinely want to stop a crime they see as unfair, or because they’re anti-drugs, having seen first-hand the damage they do. Some prisoners talk out of hatred for another person, or a desire to take out a competitor.

“But whatever the reason, we protect our sources very carefully.”

The Intelligence Team also work closely with the Police and provide information about prisoners to the Parole Board.

The Assessment of dangerousness

By David Riley, Chief Adviser Psychological Services

Most people working in the area of human service provision would accept that they have some responsibility to protect the public from the violent actions of their clients. That was not always the case, and what brought about this change was a landmark decision by the California Supreme Court.

The Court decision was the famous ruling in Tarasoff v The Regents of the University of California, which in 1976 signalled that service providers owed a duty of care to those who may be harmed by the future violent behaviour of their clients.

The case concerned a graduate student from India, Prosengit Poddar, who had developed romantic feelings towards another student, Tatiana Tarasoff, at a New Year’s Eve party in 1968. When Ms Tarasoff made it clear that his feelings were not reciprocated, Poddar became deeply depressed and on the advice of a friend attended the student counselling services where he was referred by a psychiatrist to a psychologist for psychotherapy.

Poddar confided to the psychologist that he had become distraught and angry, and intended to seek revenge on Ms Tarasoff, and had purchased a weapon. Following consultation with the supervising psychiatrist, it was decided that the campus police should be contacted and asked to arrange for Poddar to be hospitalised for further assessment.

However, when contacted by the campus police, Poddar appeared rational and reassured them that he intended no harm to Ms Tarasoff and consequently no further action was taken.

Some time later Poddar murdered Ms Tarasoff, and the Tarasoff family sought legal redress from the university.

In what is now the most quoted case of its kind, the California Supreme Court held that a therapist has a positive duty to assess the level of threat posed by an individual in cases such as this, and further, that they then must exercise all reasonable care to protect the likely victim of such violence. In Tarasoff, the Court held that the university failed in this respect, because they did not fulfil their ‘duty to warn’ the potential victim of the danger.

It is hard to overstate the significance of this decision, and subsequent court rulings have extended the scope of Tarasoff to include those closely associated with potential victims, and have also extended the liability to include not just physical harm, but also property damage.

The impact of this ruling provided the impetus for the development of robust procedures for assessing the degree of risk which clients may pose to the safety of specific individuals and the community more generally.

At a local level, the implications of the Tarasoff judgment mean that those who work with potentially violent or disturbed individuals must ensure that they assess and monitor their clients using internationally established best practice procedures, and take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of potential victims, including warning them of the danger which any client may pose.

How procedures for assessing risk have developed over the decades will be the subject of my next column.

Minister's column

Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins. Since becoming Minister I have visited many prisons here in New Zealand and in Australia.

These prisons manage offenders of many difference races, religions, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. They manage prisoners who have committed minor offences, up to those serving sentences for the worst crimes of violence.

Each of the thousands of prisoners is different, but there is one thing most of them have in common: problems with drugs and alcohol.

Drug and alcohol addiction affects over 80 percent of our prison population. Often their addictions lead to the offending that results in prison.

As Minister, I would like nothing more than to see lower rates of crime in the community and fewer people in our prisons. Helping offenders tackle their addictions and turn their lives around has the potential to achieve that.

It’s a big commitment, but one we take seriously. By the end of 2011 we will have doubled the number of places in Drug Treatment Units to 1000.

On 24 June I opened the new Drug Treatment Unit at Otago Corrections Facility. Two further units, at Wanganui and Auckland prisons, will be completed by 2011. They will bring the number of drug treatment units up to nine.

By doubling the number of places, drug treatment programmes will now be able to be provided to prisoners serving shorter sentences, a group who previously missed out on treatment.

Another addiction that many prisoners have is to nicotine. Two-thirds of prisoners are smokers and the most common health risk factor reported among prisoners is tobacco smoking. Prisoners are three times more likely to smoke than the rest of the community.

In June I also announced a ban on smoking by prisoners, which is expected to take effect from 1 July 2011. After that date staff will only be able to smoke in designated areas.

This policy has many benefits. Currently staff are exposed to a workplace with toxins from second-hand smoke up to 12 times the level which can be found in a smoker’s home. Staff who are non-smokers shouldn’t have to put up with it.

It will also mean there is no need for prisoners to have lighters or matches, which will make prisons safer.

In almost every country where prisoners have been given plenty of warning about the smoking ban, and stop smoking programmes have been available, there has not been the trouble that some opponents of this move are predicting.

Quitting smoking is tough, so we’ll make sure there is plenty of time for people to quit, and plenty of support to help them succeed.

The largest US state penitentiary system is in California and has more than 170,000 criminals in 33 prisons, 40 percent under psychiatric care, with 40,000 employees. According to the LA Times it is ‘the most overcrowded, diverse and gang- ridden system in the US’.

It is completely smoke-free. If they can do it, we can do it.

If we’re serious about helping prisoners beat these problems we shouldn’t have addictive substances of any kind in our prisons.

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

Helping twice at Te Pani Trust

Trust Sculptor/Tutor Bill Rowlands, Senior Community Work Supervisor Brian Donovan and Trust Co-ordinator Cathy Sweet. Te Pani Trust in Christchurch works with youth at risk and special needs/disabled people teaching sculpture and stone carving.

For some time, Corrections has been helping by sending offenders serving community work sentences to do repair work to the Trust’s workshop and gallery.

Community Probation Services Assistant Area Manager Tony Aitken says Corrections is now helping in another way.

“We recently gave $1000 of community work agency funding to the Trust.

“This has allowed them to offer more work to offenders since they’ve now got the money to buy materials,” he says.

“It’s been a huge advantage to get a whole lot of work done that we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. Corrections has been really good,” says Trust Co-ordinator Cathy Sweet.

Strategy to work better with Maori

Improving staff effectiveness with Maori offenders: (left to right) CPS National Advisor Maori Service Development Lawrence Tawera, Manukau Probation Officer Rawiri Nathan and Hastings Service Manager Shayne Walker. One of the aims of Community Probation Services’ three year Change Programme is to ensure that all staff will work more effectively with Maori offenders and their whanau, hapu and iwi.

To support that aim, a team of staff with frontline experience has recently started to develop a comprehensive Maori Practice Strategy for CPS.

CPS National Advisor Maori Service Development Lawrence Tawera (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngâti Raukawa) is leading the team. Working alongside him are Manukau Probation Officer Rawiri Nathan (Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua, Ngati Raukawa) and Hastings Service Manager Shayne Walker (Ngati Kahungunu).

“Our day-to-day practice is an obvious place to start. But we plan to link in with other aspects of our operations too, such as how we train staff and managers, how we configure and equip frontline service centres where we work with offenders, and ensure Maori Staff Networks will also have a key role to play,” says Lawrence.
The team is also engaging with external stakeholders including iwi service providers, and other justice sector agencies.
One of the aims will be to identify ways to build the understanding, knowledge and confidence of all staff to work in a mana-enhancing and effective way with Maori.
“This can be as basic as pronouncing a person’s name correctly when they turn up at reception, taking off your shoes before entering an offender’s home as part of a home visit, and to have the use of multi-purpose meeting rooms at service centres to cater for the visits of support people and community groups when offenders report in, and/or for hosting events such as whânau hui”.

“We’d also like to provide greater opportunities for input from whânau and the potential key role they can play in supporting offenders, for instance, at sentence induction when the offender is first told about what’s expected of them, when the probation officer prepares an offender plan, or when the probation officer is preparing to make a home visit.”

Lawrence says he hopes the Maori practice strategy that is developed will lead to the achievement of positive outcomes for Maori, and be sustainable for years to come for the Department and for the community.
“Some way down the line if we get this right we will end up dropping the word Maori and just have the Practice Strategy for CPS because the key principles and aspects of the strategy will apply to most cultures – not just Maori.”

“Part of our ongoing challenge will be to enable and build staff capability to give them the confidence to engage and work more effectively with Maori on a daily basis. Some of our staff are considered kaumatua in their own right while others have very little experience or understanding of working in a Maori cultural context.”

The team agrees that working effectively with Maori may mean staff will initially have to invest more time at the beginning of a sentence to establish effective engagement and a good working relationship with the offender and their whanau, but it will pay off in the end.

“Once you have that whanaungatanga it can be much easier to maintain compliance and make real progress,” says Rawiri.