Corrections News May-Jun 2010
Chief Executive's comment
The events have been widely reported, but no words can make up for the tragic death of Corrections Officer Jason Palmer from Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
Jason died from head injuries at Middlemore Hospital after being punched by a prisoner that he and two of his fellow officers were unlocking.
The Department’s condolences and deepest sympathies have been offered to Jason’s wife and young family and we are doing all we can to help them at this time, including flying Jason’s mother and brothers over from the United States.
Jason and his wife Tracy have two young children, aged two and five, and a welfare trust fund has been set up for them. This is a devastating time for them and I encourage you all to offer some support by making a donation.
A tragedy of this gravity naturally leads to questions and I would like to assure you that a full enquiry is taking place. At this stage there is no suggestion that correct procedures were not followed before the attack, but we will be thoroughly inquiring into the circumstances and considering the implications of the findings for our future practice and the safety of staff.
Jason’s untimely death is a stark reminder of the potential risk for all personnel, whether Police or Corrections, whose public duties require them to confront or manage offenders.
On behalf of the Department, I thank the community for the support and encouragement shown during this time of adversity.
Jason Palmer - a tragic loss
It was a sad day for Corrections and the country following the tragic death of Corrections Officer Jason Palmer at Middlemore Hospital in May.
Jason suffered a serious assault when a prisoner he and two colleagues were unlocking spontaneously threw a punch which knocked Jason unconscious. Jason fell backwards, hitting his head on the concrete courtyard.
Jason came to New Zealand from the United States eight years ago and had been a Corrections Officer at Spring Hill since November last year. He was described as keen to learn, with high integrity and was firm but fair with prisoners.
Jason was held in high regard by his fellow officers and will be sadly missed by colleagues at Spring Hill Corrections Facility (SHCF). Although only working at the prison for six months, Jason had been planning to advance his career with his Principal Corrections Officer. He wanted to move through the ranks to Senior Corrections Officer in time.
Condolences and deepest sympathies have been offered to Jason’s wife, Tracy, the couple’s young children and the wider Palmer family during this difficult time.
Apart from the Police investigation, inquiries by Prison Services, the Department of Labour and the Ombudsman will look at all the factors that led up to the attack on Jason, and how we responded at the time. The findings and recommendations will provide us with the opportunity to see what can be learnt and whether changes need to be made at all prison sites.
The Department has arranged for Jason’s mother and three brothers from Virginia, in the United States, to attend his funeral.
“We are keen to do everything we can to ensure Tracy has the support she needs during this time,” says Barry Matthews, Chief Executive “I can only imagine the terrible sense of loss Jason’s family must be experiencing.”
A fund has been set up to provide welfare for Jason’s young family. Donations can be made to ‘Jason Palmer – Support Family’ account number 02-0536-0137179-00 via internet banking or visiting a BNZ branch.
All of us in Corrections grieve for the passing of Jason Palmer.
Rest in peace, CO Palmer.
Change takes effect on frontline
It’s still early days for the Community Probation Services (CPS) Change Programme but already the new direction for managing offenders in the community is being hailed as the right one.
The multi-year programme of work was launched last October signaling a new phase for CPS. It involves a transformational redesign of frontline practice and support mechanisms including technology and administration.
The programme marked its first milestone on 31 March with the nationwide implementation of a new integrated practice framework for managing offenders on parole.
The new approach places greater emphasis on managing offenders according to their risk of harm to others and their likelihood of re-offending – not just the type of sentence or order they are serving. Probation officers are now using a supported decision framework, new tools and a knowledge bank to exercise their professional judgement in managing parolees.
The same approach will apply to offenders on home detention and post detention conditions from 1 July, and expand to include all offenders released from prison from 1 November.
Just weeks into the change, frontline staff say the difference is clear. Service Manager Karen van der Zee in Tauranga manages a team of staff working with offenders subject to parole orders, release on conditions, supervision and intensive supervision. She says the greatest change has come from staff using the new dynamic risk assessment tool DRAOR.
“The time they’re spending with offenders is more focused and they’re finding out information about offenders that they’ve never thought about before. It’s opening doors to help offenders and probation officers understand the risks that lead to offending,” she says.
As a result, offenders are engaging more positively. Both probation officers and offenders have commented that their appointments are both more meaningful and more effective in addressing issues.
Community Probation Services General Manager Katrina Casey says staff involvement in developing the framework and its support mechanisms has been unprecedented in its breadth and depth.
“This redesign and what sits behind it has received more support from within than any other change we have made,” she says.
“Our bottom-up approach has taken us back to the first principles of managing offenders in the community. Always our focus will be to ensure they comply with their sentences, reduce their likelihood of re-offending and minimise their risk of harm to others.”
In keeping with the programme’s iterative approach, Katrina says there will be more work done to test and refine the design.
“We want to ensure we are always learning and always working to continuously improve, and the contribution staff make is critical to this.”
New tool to assess 'dynamic' risk
To effectively reduce re-offending it’s critical that we understand and respond to changes in an individual’s risk over time. Probation officers have begun using a new risk assessment tool to help them do just that.
The Dynamic Risk Assessment Offender Re-entry (DRAOR) focuses on an individual’s likelihood of re-offending and their risk of harm to others as well as protective factors that can ‘armour’ them against risk.
National Research Adviser Dr Nick Wilson, who helped adapt the Canadian DRAOR tool for use in New Zealand, says it can’t calculate all possible risk, but provides a “more accurate and practical picture of risk”.
“For example, we consider all previous criminal history, and the changing circumstances of each offender; perhaps an offender’s partner has just left him, and some of his old gang associates have got out of prison, but he also wants to be a good father to his children and doesn’t want to go back to drinking,” he says.
“A probation officer who uses DRAOR to assess this man’s level of risk has a fuller picture of what’s going on in his life and how he is likely to behave at this moment in time.”
Dynamic risk factors are thought to be better indicators of when someone may re-offend whereas static risk factors are better indicators of who may re-offend.
Corrections also uses a tool called RoC*RoI (Risk of Conviction and Risk of Reimprisonment) to measure static or unchangeable risk factors. DRAOR now complements this to ensure a comprehensive assessment of risk takes place.
How DRAOR works
DRAOR provides a structured interaction between the probation officer and offender and is designed to be clear and relatively simple to apply once staff are familiar with using it. First, the probation officer establishes baseline information and after that, the focus is largely on the acute or fast-changing elements.
The information is weighted and assessed using plausible risk scenarios to work out how soon the offender might re-offend, as well as what harm to others that offending might cause.
The probation officer can then determine the most appropriate action. This might mean seeing the offender more frequently, referring them to an appropriate programme or escalating issues with a service manager.
Defining dynamic risk
As the name suggests, DRAOR’s emphasis is on dynamic or changeable risk factors. These include factors considered stable (slow changing) or acute (fast changing), and protective factors that help an offender move away from re-offending. DRAOR is the first such tool to consider protective factors, giving the probation officer additional options for reducing the offender’s likelihood of re-offending or risk of harm to others by tapping into those positive influences.
Nick says the tool does not generate an answer, but does provide a transparent process to support evidence-based decision making.
“DRAOR enables probation officers to exercise structured professional judgement. It gives them flexibility to respond to and reduce an offender’s likelihood of re-offending and minimise the risk of harm to others.”
DRAOR is part of the Community Probation Services Change Programme.
Factors considered in dynamic risk assessment
Stable (slow changing)
Acute (fast changing)
|peer associates||substance abuse||responsive to advice|
|attitudes to authority||anger/hostility||prosocial identity
|impulse control||opportunity/access to victims||high expectations|
|problem solving||negative mood||cost/benefit
|sense of entitlement||employment||social support|
attachment with others
interpersonal relationships/living situation
Inspirational instructors working inside the wire
Reducing re-offending by teaching prisoners work skills
Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) instructors play a pivotal role in reducing re-offending by helping prisoners to rehabilitate themselves through work.
This work, though within a prison, resembles as closely as possible similar work in the marketplace. But there’s no doubt these instructors are operating in an unconventional and often challenging environment.
A high proportion of prisoners have no formal qualifications, and many have low levels of literacy and numeracy. On top of teaching prisoners vocational skills, job experience and work habits, CIE instructors must ensure that the goods and services they produce meet agreed standards and contracts.
Principal Instructor of Horticulture at New Plymouth Prison, Sheryl Clyma, supervises around 15 prisoners a day in the nursery she runs.
To ensure she meets her security obligations, nursery requirements and prisoner training requirements, Sheryl is charged with training, selecting new workers, health and safety, plant stock management, purchasing, dispatch, timesheet, and staff management.
Sheryl has been working at New Plymouth Prison since 1998. She admits the job was a bit intimidating at first, despite the fact that she has been involved in horticulture training since leaving school.
“From the moment you enter the prison property it’s a different world, so initially it was very strange and daunting.”
But it didn’t take her long to find her feet.
“I expect the prisoners to work as a team, and show respect for others. I like to instil good work values and morals and place a lot of importance on this,” she says.
“I believe that as instructors we play an important part in a prisoner’s rehabilitation. We can supply them with a positive, productive workplace where they can learn new skills and good work habits.”
Terry O’Leary, the principal printing instructor at Wellington Prison, agrees with this sentiment. He has worked with prisoners for almost ten years and seen first-hand the positive effects of giving prisoners an opportunity to learn.
He has been in the printing trade all his life. When he saw the job for a printing instructor at Wellington Prison, the challenge of teaching prisoners instantly appealed to him.
“It’s totally different to teaching apprentices. Apprentices are there because they want to be, prisoners aren’t necessarily there out of choice.”
Unlike apprentices, prisoners are starting from scratch and many don’t have basic skills.
“Many of the prisoners I teach lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. I certainly couldn’t go at the pace I was used to.”
But Terry was very pleasantly surprised by the eagerness of the prisoners to learn, despite the disadvantages that many of them were faced with.
“Most of these guys are used to failure and have low self esteem,” he says.
“But as soon as they’re presented with their Level 1 Certificate, you can see the change in their attitude because they’ve earned it themselves. This is what makes them go all the way, over the course of three years, to obtain their Level 3 Certificates.”
Terry remembers with pride teaching two prisoners for a Diploma in Print Management and Estimating when it was introduced by PrintNZ Training in 2005. Those two prisoners went on to become the first people in the country to complete it.
He compares being a CIE instructor at the Printshop to being the coach of a successful sports team.
“You get the team to the standard you have worked for, then they start to go their own ways once they’re released so you start all over again with new prisoners and new challenges. The training is never-ending but thoroughly worthwhile.”
Auckland Prison’s Lighting Instructor Kevin Smith, worked in numerous places around the world as an engineer before joining Corrections as a corrections officer. He worked as an officer for 12 years, until applying for his role as a CIE instructor.
One of Kevin’s aims is to ensure the prisoners under his tuition are able to advance to a more technical level, so he encourages them to sign up to foundation classes to improve their literacy and numeracy. He also assesses his prisoners on unit standards linked to the lighting industry throughout the month.
One of the prisoners under Kevin’s tuition began his training with the literacy and numeracy levels of a four year-old. Now, under Kevin’s guidance, his literacy and numeracy levels are at a tertiary level, he has completed his Level 2 Certificate in Electrical Engineering and Occupational Health and Safety and is studying for a Diploma in Construction Management.
“It’s my job to get the best from the prisoners, to instil confidence no matter what level of expertise they have,” Kevin says.
“Every day I see what can be achieved if the trainees are in a positive environment.”
“A few of the prisoners who start in the workshop have ‘basketballs under their arms’; they give the impression they’re tough. However, after a couple of weeks when they’ve gained more confidence they soften. They start interacting with other prisoners and become really keen to learn more.
“Many surprise me. I sometimes think that no way will I be able to turn that one around, then, hey presto they change.”
And that’s exactly what these three CIE instructors are committed to - helping prisoners turn their lives around and enabling them to make a positive change.
Puppy trainers double
The number of prisoners helping to train mobility dogs as part of the ‘Puppies in Prison’ programme was doubled from four to eight in March. The prisoners at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility, working with the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust, train the puppies for use by disabled people in the community. The programme has been expanded after a six-month evaluation showed a positive change in the prisoners. One prisoner says: ‘The responsibility and care for my puppy has stabilised me 100%... I won’t jeopardise my position in the dog programme due to my fondness for my puppy.”
Samoan orators share wisdom
Over thirty prisoners taking part in the Malaga Polenesia programme at the Vaka Fa’aola Pacific Focus Unit at Spring Hill Corrections Facility were treated to a visit from Samoan orators Mr Lepale Manu Tusani and Mr Malaeoalii Siloa Silipa from Savaia Lefaga in March. The guests shared their oratory skills to encourage pride and self-confidence among the prisoners, and were very well received by all participants. “We got to hear how things can be said, done and delivered in a better way. It helps us stop making a fool of ourselves when we are in public arena. I wish my family could hear me now,” said one prisoner.
First public-private prison to be built in New Zealand
New Zealand’s first prison to be designed, built and run by a public-private partnership (PPP) is planned for Wiri in South Auckland.
Infrastructure Minister Bill English and Corrections Minister Judith Collins said on 14 April that the approximately 1000-bed men’s prison will be built next to Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility on land already owned by Corrections.
“Appropriate use of public-private partnerships can introduce new design, financing, maintenance and operating techniques that provide better services and value to taxpayers,” Mr English said.
“International experience suggests that building a new prison at Wiri using a public-private partnership will offer savings of between 10 and 20 percent over conventional methods over the 25 to 35-year life of the proposed contract.
Ms Collins said an additional 2,270 prison beds were needed by 2019 to cope with forecast growth in prisoner numbers and the need to replace ageing existing prisons.
“A custodial PPP is an opportunity to inject new ideas and new innovations into the corrections sector to enhance public safety, improve rehabilitation and lower costs,” she said.
“I would expect that any successful private provider will include Mäori representation and/or Maori-specific services such as rehabilitative programmes,” Ms Collins said.
Public consultation will begin shortly on resource consents. The tender process will begin before the end of the year and the prison is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.
Auckland Central Remand Prison was previously managed by a private company for some years, but having the private sector also design and build the prison is a first for New Zealand.
Walk-away escapers targeted by new security classifications
Escapes from our prisons are already at a record low, but the new system should lead to fewer ‘walk-away’ escapes, where a trusted prisoner walks away from a job outside the prison fence.
The system calculates the risk a prisoner presents outside the prison perimeter by taking a broader range of factors into account and focusing more on escape prevention than the previous system.
Factors include type of offence, age, sentence length, whether a prisoner is subject to extradition, deportation or a removal order and their number of previous sentences.
“For example, age has been found to be a strong escape risk factor. Under the new system, offenders under 25 will be classified as a higher risk of escape and will therefore be less likely to work outside unless there are exceptional circumstances or they are under close supervision,” says Prison Services Assistant General Manager Operations Leanne Field.
The new system introduces a fifth classification, so that prisoners can now be classified as Minimum, Low, Low-Medium, High and Maximum.
“Low-Medium security prisoners will no longer be eligible to work outside the prison perimeter and Low security prisoners will only be able to be employed on specific work parties that have a high level of supervision,” says Leanne.
Senior Policy Adviser Tim Hughes, who helped develop the new system, says it is based on the latest international research and a review of all our escapes from the last five years.
“The new system will give more clarity about who can and who can’t go out. It’s not about stopping prisoners working; we expect it will lead to more prisoners working, but under appropriate levels of supervision,” he says.
|Number of escapes||89|| 12
|Escapes per 100 prisoners||1.8||0.15|
|Average prison population||4,951||8,484|
Evolution not revolution' in rehabilitation and reintegration
Corrections is forming a new Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services (RRS) group and has developed new ‘reducing re-offending’ principles to underpin our rehabilitation and reintegration work. For the people driving the change it’s an exciting time. Corrections News chats to RRS General Manager, Alison Thom and Acting Assistant General Manager David Wales.
Corrections News: It must be a pretty busy time for you?
Alison: It’s not often you get the chance to build something as important as RRS and it’s a hugely exciting process to be part of.
Not only are we bringing together all of the different groups across the organisation that undertake rehabilitation and reintegration work, we are also looking at how the approach and principles can underpin everything the Department does.
CNews: How did you arrive at the new approach and principles?
David: They were developed by representatives from across the Department, from Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Development.
We held three workshops to review the original Integrated Offender Management principles, the literature over the last ten years, and information on seamless delivery of services in other settings and jurisdictions. We also considered other change work underway across the Department.
CNews: How is the new approach different to our previous approach?
David: We examined our existing principles against our ’what works now’ research and our experience over the last ten years. The original intent of our existing principles remains sound, and many practices and processes will remain unchanged.
The new set of principles is an evolution based on experience, research and lessons learnt through implementation. For example, issues with processes, procedures, staff capability and capacity, and information flows.
CNews: What will the new approach mean in practice?
Alison: At the moment we’re focusing on building the RRS team to ensure that we have the right people, in the right place doing the right job. We have a huge task ahead of us – detailed design work for how services will be delivered into the future is already underway.
We will still base our decisions on the likelihood that an offender will commit further serious offences. We will also consider how willing and able offenders are to undertake various interventions and what sorts of activities they need to address the factors related to their offending. There will be more transparency in what activities an offender is eligible for and when.
CNews: What will be different about the assessment and management process?
David: There will be staged assessments to determine what an offender needs at that point in time, and any subsequent assessments will build on the previous ones.
There will also be an increased emphasis on ensuring offenders can access the right activities at the right places. Where possible, we will co-ordinate programmes nationally to ensure we reach as many offenders as possible.
Alison: All offenders will be expected to take a more active role in their rehabilitation, reintegration and release. Part of this will be a greater emphasis on other agencies, communities and families/whänau being actively involved in rehabilitation and reintegration, and this will be formally imbedded into our processes and services.
All the staff I have spoken to are really enthusiastic about and supportive of the changes, and the amount of very carefully considered feedback we have received is certainly making our task easier.
There’s a lot of work still to be done but it’s a fantastic opportunity to really make a difference in reducing re-offending.
Rehabilitation not the same for women
By David Riley, Chief Adviser Psychological Services
In a recent well-constructed and thoughtful opinion piece, Kelley Blanchette and Kelly Taylor1 argue that we need to refine rehabilitation and reintegration practice to achieve the best outcomes for female offenders.
They acknowledge that the principles of effective rehabilitation – resting as they do on risk, need and reponsivity – are ‘incontestable’. However, they suggest that these may not be as ‘gender-neutral’ as first thought, since the vast bulk of supporting evidence has either focused exclusively on male offenders or failed to break down the results by gender.
Blanchette and Taylor present clear evidence that issues such as family separation and community isolation, poor quality of life, mental illness, and employment are all critical factors when reintegrating women. Additionally, compared with male offenders, women are more likely to be victims of violence, sexual abuse or incest, often inflicted by many perpetrators over long periods of time. While not seeing victimisation as the reason for criminal behaviour in itself, they suggest that many victims are likely to turn to crime, abuse substances, adjust badly to prison life and ultimately re-offend.
They argue that rehabilitation for women should move beyond merely focusing on criminogenic factors and risk reduction, and instead should aim to enhance women’s wellbeing by:
1. the adoption of ‘gender-informed theories and methodologies’
2. the consideration of gendered pathways
3. the recognition of the critical nature of healthy relationships for women, and
4. the incorporation of ‘strengths-based perspectives’ and ‘positive psychology’.
Finally, the authors reiterate that nothing in their argument should be taken as detracting from the traditional approach to offender rehabilitation, but rather that gender-informed approaches have the potential to increase treatment effectiveness.
1 Blanchette K., and Taylor K. (2009), Reintegration of Female Offenders: Perspectives on “What Works”, Corrections Today, 71, pp 60-64
Sweating the small stuff at new Matapuna Unit
On 25 March, the Matapuna Special Treatment Unit to provide rehabilitation to prisoners who are at high risk of serious re-offending was formally opened in Christchurch Men’s Prison.
Prisoners at the unit typically have around 70 convictions for a range of crimes, including at least one violent offence.
Principal Psychologist Lindon Pullan says the unit targets higher risk prisoners because they have the most negative impact on the community, with more victims, troubled families and the cost of the ‘revolving door back to prison’.
Participants at Matapuna live for nine months in a ‘community of change’, and complete a therapy programme which aims to change their entrenched criminal attitudes and behaviours.
“The challenge for staff is to monitor and give feedback to the prisoners constantly and consistently, and we have the motto of ‘sweating the small stuff’ so they are learning all the time what is appropriate,” says Lindon.
Staff also provide reintegration planning, so the men have support for the first few months of release when they are most likely to lapse into crime.
Matapuna: What’s in a name?
Matapuna means a spring or source of a river. Traditionally Maori immersed people in springs for healing, so the Matapuna Special Treatment Unit means a place of healing and balance, and of getting back to basics.
As Minister of Corrections there is no worse news than that of front-line staff who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.
Jason Palmer, Spring Hill Prison Corrections Officer was tragically and suddenly taken from us on 16 May 2010.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Jason’s family during this difficult time – words cannot express the depth of sadness and loss.
My thoughts are also with Jason’s colleagues at Spring Hill Prison, and every other member of the Corrections family throughout New Zealand.
Our Corrections staff are a special and courageous breed who serve the community behind the wire, managing the country’s most difficult and dangerous offenders.
Over the last 18 months, it has been my privilege to meet many staff. They are a close knit, dedicated, caring and supportive community. The loss of Jason, a friend and a colleague, is felt by each and every staff member at every site around the country.
It has been a difficult time, but I am so proud that staff have all shown incredible professionalism ensuring our prisons continue to run smoothly and safely.
I thank all staff for that.
The role of Corrections is vital to the safety of our communities, and while it may be hard at times I ask that all staff continue to call on the training and experience that makes them one of the finest Corrections services in the world.
Working as a Corrections Officer is more than a job or a career – it is a calling for which only a very special few are prepared to stand up and to answer.
Jason was one of those special few who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way so the rest of us can be safe.
Our society is a better place for the work Corrections staff do.
Go well Jason.
Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections
Baby used to conceal drugs
A female visitor to Northland Region Corrections Facility was detained to await police when drug dog Roxy indicated she had something in her vehicle. She eventually handed over a blue balloon filled with 20 grams of cannabis which had been concealed on the baby she was holding. “This is a great result, but it’s horrific for a baby to be used in this way, and saddening that it isn’t uncommon,” says Acting Prison Manager Chris Gisler.
Drugs, drink and ammo found
Corrections staff at Waikeria Prison found cannabis, alcohol, drug utensils and ammunition during a routine weekend search in April of around 80 visitors’ vehicles and their occupants. “The finds resulted in four people being warned or excluded from the site. I’m very proud of staff efforts in finding the items which can often be small in size and very well hidden,” says Prison Manager Waikeria North Paul O’Byrne.
Tell us what you know, not who you are. CRIMESTOPPERS 0800 555 111
Call anonymously with information about crime. If you know something about the smuggling of drugs into prison, or any other crime, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the online form at www.crimestoppers-nz.org
Private Management coming to Mt Eden/ACRP Prisons
The Minister of Corrections Hon. Judith Collins announced on 10 May that the Government has decided to implement private (or contract) management at Mt Eden Prison and Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP).
The operation of Mt Eden/ACRP will be competitively tendered and a private contractor chosen to manage the prison under contract for a specified number of years.
“Contract management at two of our prisons is an opportunity to inject new ideas and new innovations into the corrections sector to enhance public safety, improve rehabilitation and lower costs,” Ms Collins said.
“The size and location of Mt Eden/ACRP, as well as the new facilities being built, combine to make this prison an excellent choice for contract management.”
Proposals to manage the prisons will be rigorously evaluated before the Department begins negotiations with a preferred contractor. We expect to make an announcement on the successful contractor early next year.
Then there will be a formal transition process before the Department hands over the operation of the prison around August next year.
The prison will continue to operate within the current Corrections framework. All prisoners will remain the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections, and the contract manager will have to comply with all relevant New Zealand legislation and international obligations.
The Minister’s announcement can be found on the Beehive website
Two to become one
Mt Eden Prison (above) was built over 120 years ago and replacement facilities are currently being constructed. ACRP (Auckland Central Remand Prison), built on the adjoining site, opened about 10 years ago, initially under a contract manager. Although the two have remained as two separate prisons since then, they will be integrated once the replacement facilities are completed.