Corrections News Jul-Aug 2011

Chief Executive's comment

 Executive Ray SmithIn June we had an incident at the Youth Unit in Hawke's Bay Prison and I found myself at the hospital bedsides of two staff injured following an attack by two prisoners.

There is little worse than looking at someone battered and bruised through absolutely no fault of their own. These two men simply came to work. They did not provoke, nor in any way deserve, the violence that was inflicted upon them.

The meeting was very humbling for me. I saw two people who had shown incredible courage. They were hurting, but still held an immense pride in the work they did every day.  In fact, they were really keen to get straight back into it.

We are all very aware that the prisoners and offenders we work with can be a hard bunch to deal with. This can make our role very challenging, but also highlights why it’s so important for us to implement changes that will make a real difference and encourage improvement in the behaviour of prisoners.Senior Corrections Officer Karina Thomas (middle) is one of fifteen corrections officers on secondment to Police in Christchurch.

Take the introduction of smokefree prisons. On 1 July 2011 we led the world in making our prisons totally smokefree. It hasn’t been easy. In fact it has taken over 12 months of intensive planning.  We don’t expect it to always be smooth sailing, but as our staff have shown time and again, they have the skills and professionalism to deal with any situations that come their way.

This is an exciting time for Corrections. I look forward to seeing what more can be achieved over the next 12 months and beyond.


Ray Smith

A surprise visit by Sonny Bill Williams

Staff at Christchurch Men's Prison enjoyed a visit by Sonny Bill Williams (middle - in red jacket) as much as the youth prisoners he came to motivate. A group of young offenders at Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit got the surprise of a lifetime when Sonny Bill Williams visited the prison.

The visit by league legend, boxer and current All Black, who visited the prison to share his story with the 26 youth, was a planned surprise. He spoke to the boys, aged between 16 and 19, for two hours and watched them show their skills in a match of touch rugby.

Boys in the unit had completed a range of educational courses and were honoured to have their certificates presented by Sonny Bill. Some had completed NCEA level 1 and 2 since being in prison, while others had gained certificates in rural machinery, land based skills, comprehensive first aid, safety training, and forklift operator certificates.

Programme Facilitator Nazea Silbery says the meeting was about showing the boys what could be achieved through self-discipline, motivation and focus.

“Sonny Bill shared how he got to top level sport; training, commitment, determination and setting goals to be the best.

It’s great because setting goals and persevering is something we work on in rehabilitation programmes with these young men,” says Nazea.

Innovative partnership helps Police in Christchurch

In a first for New Zealand, fifteen corrections officers have finished an initial two month secondment with Christchurch Central Police helping with staffing for prisoner escorts and watch house duties. Twelve staff will be continuing to work with Police until the end of August under an extended arrangement.

Waikeria Prison Corrections Officer Lynda Cassels in the Christchurch watchhouse with Constable Zhe Zhang. [Photo courtesy Stephen Hill NZ Police.]Corrections was asked by Police to provide them with staff experienced in prisoner management in an innovative partnership to enable their focus to be on frontline policing in Christchurch.

Both agencies have community safety as a top priority and after the earthquake events of the last six months everyone agrees on the benefits of working together more closely.

“We are very pleased to be able to assist Police, and there is a definite benefit in the arrangement for our staff too – by working alongside Police they will be picking up some different ideas about prisoner management and learning new skills,” says Acting Regional Manager Ian Bourke.

Ian is keen to explore further opportunities for staff from both agencies to work collectively in areas of common interest. To that effect, joint tactical meetings have been held and response teams from the Police and Corrections in Christchurch will conduct joint training exercises.

Corrections Officer Karina Thomas, seconded from Christchurch Women’s Prison, has been in charge of co-ordinating the Corrections staff where they are most useful to Police. “Several of our staff have been working in shifts at the watch house helping Police when they bring in offenders, locking them away for the night, taking care of the offenders’ property, unlocking them in the morning and making sure they are ready for court.”

Corrections Officers Glenys O?Sulllivan (second left) and Deon Van Deventer (second right) with Police on patrol in Christchurch. When the 13 June earthquake struck all staff were redeployed in community reassurance duties, checking on residents in the worst hit areas, and asking questions about their situation.

But their presence in the community does more than just reassure residents. Four corrections officers on a community patrol with Police were waved down by school children saying a pitbull dog was attacking them. The Police vehicle followed the dog to an address and uncovered a drug dealer’s house and a large drug operation in progress.

“We’re assisting the Police to maintain a highly visible presence in the community which makes the community safer but also makes the people feel safer,” says Karina.

The fact that the Corrections staff all have experience working with offenders helps them interact with offenders during court escorts or at the watch house. “Some of the new offenders are very anxious about the prospect of being in prison custody and don’t know what to expect. We’ve been able to explain what happens when they arrive and assure them that the Corrections staff are really good and they’ll be looked after.”

Two corrections officers, Craig Mclintoch and Vivian Goodman, were singled out for praise by the Police Youth Court Prosecutor while on duty at the Youth Court.

“They related well to the young persons in the waiting room and outside the New Brighton Community Centre, where the Youth Court is currently held. Numerous other professionals also passed on their gratitude regarding the officers’ approachable, positive and professional presentation.”

Creating Lasting Change

Creating Lasting Change is the Department’s new strategic plan.

nullThe plan outlines the four priorities Corrections will focus on in the next four years – public safety, reducing re-offending, better public value and leadership.

Launched by Chief Executive Ray Smith in May this year, the plan reinforces the need for us to work collaboratively with other public sector agencies and community organisations to manage offenders and improve public safety.

Creating Lasting Change highlights our vision of improving public safety and keeping communities safe by ensuring offenders complete their sentences and orders and are held to account if they don’t.

“We should place offenders at the centre of our effort and victims at the centre of our concern”, says Ray Smith.

Of course, the way we operate must be consistent with our priority of achieving better public value. The Department will focus on producing operational savings every year for the next four years.

Creating Lasting Change is available on our website under publications.

Technology tames the Wild West

Greymouth community work staff who cover the wild west coast of the South Island are trialling a new radio telephone system in community work vans that could expand their operating coverage.

Community Work Supervisors Jill Cowen and Ian Murphy of Greymouth test the new RT equipment.The Nelson/Marlborough West Coast Area is vast as well as remote. It has around 600km of coastline and offenders spread from Karamea in the north to Haast in the south – with a lot of rugged terrain in between.

Senior Probation Officer Paul Watson says cell phone coverage is notoriously patchy and that limits where community work teams can operate. “Staff and public safety are paramount; we must have a reliable way of communicating with our service centres – especially in an emergency.”

“This could open up huge areas for us. If using radio telephones gives us better coverage we’ll be able to send work crews out to more communities so they can also benefit from the unpaid work offenders do.”

Paul says the trial involves driving a community work van fitted with the equipment on a circuit around the area and checking in periodically with a unit back at base.

“Our test area will take us from Greymouth north through Blackball towards Reefton and also inland from Greymouth up to Arthur’s Pass back up Grey Valley. Looking south we could go as far as Hokitika and Ross.

“We’ll analyse the results carefully before making a decision about whether to go ahead and install the gear.”

The equipment includes a base unit at the Senior Community Work Supervisor’s office, a van fitted with permanent radio transmitter, and a battery powered unit carried by the CWS at all times. Paul says the system has a built in emergency feature that means if contact is lost for more than 20 minutes, an alarm is sounded back at base.

“It could be absolutely brilliant – not just for the West Coast but our people working in other remote parts of the country too.”

Aid for prisoners

Three providers have recently been selected to deliver reintegrative support services to offenders for the next three years, following an open tender process.

Attendees at the Reintegrative Support Service Providers meeting in mid-May; with Alison Thom, General Manager Rehabilitation and Reintegration (far right) and David Wales, Assistant General Manager Rehabilitation and Reintegration (in light blue shirt on left). Auckland Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (Auckland PARS), Waikato Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (Waikato PARS) and the Prisoners’ Aid & Rehabilitation Trust (PART) will be delivering reintegrative services for prisoners and their families, and offenders on community sentences.

The three organisations provide reintegrative services to all of the country’s prisons and provide nationwide services to offenders in the community.

For the financial year to April 2011, 10,126 offenders have received Corrections funded assistance through reintegrative services organisations.

Services provided by reintegrative services providers are intended to support offenders with a range of issues including acquiring suitable accommodation, obtaining employment, managing finances, managing relationship issues, developing pro-social community support, and post-release health care continuity.

A planning day in mid-May hosted by the Department; and attended by the three reintegrative services providers helped define the value and usefulness of the services. As Alison Thom, General Manager, Rehabilitation and Reintegration told the providers “you have the expertise in this area; you can do it better than us – reducing recidivism being our ultimate goal”.

The organisations themselves comprise a mixture of paid employees and volunteers. The Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Trust (PART), for example, is based in Christchurch, and has 11 offices around the country. They employ 26 staff and have 80 volunteers.

Case story
Len Everson, a Wellington-based Area Manager of PART, shared an example of the type of assistance they provide:

At 18, Mike was convicted of sexual offences. While all his siblings were achieving academically, Mike was stealing cars. He was estranged from his family; his mum only visited him once during his 2.5 years imprisonment.

Len agreed to help Mike by finding him suitable accommodation, finding him voluntary work (which later led to full-time paid employment), and over a period of a couple of years, extolled the virtues of saving money. Len also wrote to Mike, encouraging him to work hard and pay off his debts. Mike lost employment a couple of times and was caught driving with excess blood alcohol; but slowly his life began to change.

Mike began to build good, healthy relationships with Len’s support and encouragement – and now sees his family regularly. Mike’s parents have stated categorically, that without Len’s support, Mike would not have attained what he did after being out of prison for five and a half years.

Prisoners tap into these services through the case management process.

Prison training opens door to self-employed business

Julian (Jay) Mutu has his own gardening business after learning skills and gaining qualifications in prison. A prison sentence at Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF) has provided valuable opportunities for an ambitious Whangarei man. During his sentence, Julian (Jay) Mutu studied for and obtained the Level 2 National Certificate in Horticulture and has gone on to become a successfully self-employed general gardener, lawn care operator and bee-keeper.

While completing the qualification in prison Jay became interested in all aspects of garden work and gained a particular interest in organic gardening processes. Looking for something to engage with, Jay saw a Level 4 course in sustainable rural development at the NorthTec campus in Whangarei. “I was looking for something to do, and had an interest in organic horticulture that I had developed during the prison training, when I saw this course,” says Jay.

“I got into bee-keeping because of the case study I had to complete for the sustainable rural development course. I had been reading about bee-keeping and decided to try it out.” Jay obtained information and help setting up his apiary by joining the Whangarei Bee Club. “They are a great group, really helpful,” says Jay. “Now the bees are out servicing the rural avocado orchards.”

Jay says that he would have been getting back into trouble through boredom if he hadn’t taken the course in prison.

“It’s great to see his interest in continuing his qualifications and building on the training that we were able to provide,” says NRCF Area Operations Manager Don Robertson. “His success is a credit to the interest and dedication of the instructors from NorthTec and it shows what can be done when the message gets across,” says Don.

Jay also went back to NorthTec recently to complete a short course on website design and has now built a website to support his lawn care business.

NorthTec provides training tuition to 510 prisoners annually, in fields such as forestry, horticulture, building, automotive and interior decorating, in purpose-built facilities at NRCF.

Audio-visual links lead to improved public safety

A six-month pilot programme to test audiovisual links between Auckland District Court and Mt Eden Corrections Facility has been a success. The audiovisual pilot which ran from September last year to the end of February this year was a joint project between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections.

nullAn audiovisual link means that prisoners do not have to leave prison to appear in court on administrative matters, such as suppression hearings and bail applications. It improves public safety, reduces the number of costly prisoner movements and reduces opportunities to introduce contraband.

This pilot resulted in 695 cases being heard by an audiovisual link, and a further 362 cases have subsequently been heard. During the pilot, 24 percent of the audiovisual link appearances were for prisoners with escape alerts.

A review of the pilot programme found that it has improved safety for the public, judges, and court and corrections staff who may be at risk from violent prisoners. It has an added benefit of speeding up and simplifying the judicial process by saving an estimated 20 percent in time between each AVL appearance.

The audiovisual link technology is now being expanded to include Waikeria Prison, with corresponding links to the Hamilton and Manukau district courts. It is estimated that by 2014 some of New Zealand’s biggest courts could each have up to 2,000 audiovisual link appearances by remand prisoners every year.

Prison the therapeutic way

That people can leave prison better than they went in is not a new idea, and a growing movement internationally to run prison units as ‘therapeutic communities’ is helping to make this idea a reality.

Principal Psychologist Paul Whitehead (on right) and Principal Corrections Officer Bob McFarland talk with two of the men at Karaka Special Treatment Unit. In the background is a pataka (storehouse) carved by prisoners and the custody team and representing the five values of the unit: responsibility, honesty, respect, commitment, and trust.“Prison units that are run as therapeutic communities are quite different from ordinary prison units,” says National Manager Special Treatment Units, Bronwyn Rutherford.

“In a therapeutic community the whole unit is geared towards supporting change and rehabilitation, and the offenders live separately from the main prison population. Custodial staff work more closely with psychologists. Prisoners are pulled up on bad behaviour – including by other prisoners – and issues are always talked through, both in open forums and privately.”

But does extra ‘support’ and ‘talking through’ rather than punitive measures make therapeutic communities a soft option?

“The atmosphere in a therapeutic community is often better. There tend to be fewer offences, and staff often feel safer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a soft option. If anything prisoners find it more challenging because they have to take part in a rehabilitation programme that makes them think about what they’ve done and the hurt they’ve caused,” says Bronwyn.

Karaka Special Treatment Unit at Waikeria Prison is a therapeutic community for high risk violent offenders who may have committed a range of offences from murder to assault to methamphetamine manufacture.

The Unit has an embedded rehabilitation programme during which prisoners must examine the causes and consequences of their offending. The programme challenges entrenched attitudes about offending, and teaches skills (e.g. anger management) to live a more pro-social lifestyle.

Karaka Unit Principal Psychologist Paul Whitehead says they offer a structured day where prisoners are either taking part in therapy sessions, working, or busy with activities such as art and kapa haka.

“We try to ensure that all activities have a positive psychological application. For example, we work closely with custodial staff to give men appropriate jobs; this could mean a guy with power and control issues might be put in a job where he has to take orders. Obviously this can bring issues to the surface and the men learn more that way.”

Paul says Karaka Unit holds weekly ‘case management’ meetings where key staff involved with a prisoner get together with that prisoner to talk through any issues, or to give positive encouragement if a prisoner is doing really well.

“For example, this week we met a guy who is new to the unit and who is struggling to leave his gang affiliations at the gate. He’d been using gang slogans and was being borderline disrespectful to staff. We talked it through and he owned up to his behaviour in a weekly meeting of the whole community the next day.”

International research indicates that men who are released from therapeutic communities like Karaka Unit are less hostile and less likely to re-offend, but that doesn’t make release easy for them.

“Reintegration is really tough. Men come here at the end of their sentences, and we do our best to involve their families/wh?nau. When they get out we always hope the conditions of their parole will allow them to hold down a job,” says Paul.

“It can be especially hard for guys who’ve burned their bridges with their families, or where the families are part of the problem. One young guy of 19 who is due for release is from a gang family and he’s made the decision to move to a new town to get away from them. He’ll know no-one, and his social skills are not very good either. We’re working with WINZ to try to find him a position where he will be able to meet new people and get some self esteem – perhaps with the Limited Service Volunteers.”

Paul and his colleagues do not completely lose touch with the men after release and sometimes give them a call in the early days to see how they’re doing.

“Once they leave we follow up on the Department’s computerised offender management system to see if they have come back to prison. Not many have gone on to offend in a serious manner, which is very promising.

“We’re having a formal evaluation done at the moment by Dr Devon Polaschek (Associate Professor of Psychology at the Victoria University of Wellington), so we’re looking forward to those results,” he says.

What does Corrections do for victims of crime?

Although Corrections’ main business is managing offenders and reducing re-offending, all our work is aimed at improving public safety. So what do we do for those people who have already been the victims of crime?

Victims Information Manager Christine Smith.Corrections’ main contact with victims of crime comes through the Victim Notification Register. The Register offers victims of serious crime the opportunity to stay informed about the person who offended against them.

The Police are responsible for receiving and verifying applications from victims who want to be on the register. Victims may be eligible for the Register if they have been the victim of a serious assault, the offence included serious injury or the death of a person, or if the victim has ongoing fears for his or her own physical safety or the safety of an immediate family member.

Police then forward offender and victim details to Corrections so we can provide notification services.

What we notify victims about depends on the sentence of the offender. For example, if an offender is in prison, we notify about incidents including escapes, temporary releases (e.g. to attend a rehabilitation programme), and releases to work.

If the offender is serving a sentence in the community, we notify victims in writing when we take breach or recall action against the offender. For example, we would take breach action against a home detainee for leaving his or her property without permission.

“Victims of offenders who are in prison are informed in writing of all upcoming Parole Board hearings, including hearings to consider release on parole, or the setting of final release conditions. Victims are also sent a copy of the Board’s decision,” says Corrections Victims Information Manager Christine Smith.

“On some occasions, depending on the case, Parole Board staff will phone victims after a hearing to inform them of the decision. This means the victim will know in advance of the letter if, for example, the Board supports a prisoner being allowed out on Release to Work.”

“Victims can always contact their Corrections victims liaison officer if they have questions. They can, and do, also contact me. It’s part of my job to always try and help. I listen and assure them they are receiving all information they are entitled to receive,” says Christine.
Christine is currently working on an amendment to the Corrections Victim Notification Register that will allow victims to choose two key dates when they do not want to receive notification letters.

“It’s to try avoid key dates such as the offence date or the victim’s birthday,” she says.

Give Your Mates a Day

A ‘big’ cheque was presented to the trustees of the Give Your Mates a Day Trust in June.

Rebecca Boyack (Independent Trustee), Solicitor Richard Niven, General Manager Organisational Development Vince Arbuckle, Senior Corrections Officer Beven Hanlon (CANZ) and Graham Cuffley (PSA) with the dollar value of leave donated by staff for their Christchurch colleagues.The trust was set up after February’s earthquake, and nearly 1,000 staff from around the country kindly donated a day of their leave with the net dollar value of this leave put into a trust. Due to the generosity and goodwill of staff, a total of $166,430 was raised with the money being distributed to individual Christchurch staff.

The staff who received the funds were grateful and a large number sent in words of appreciation:

“Please pass on a big thank you to all the team involved as I never expected such a wonderful gift. It came as such a great surprise and it was most appreciated."

"I am going to buy a special something that I am able to keep forever which will remind me, whenever I look at it, of the kindness of my colleagues."

"I would like to thank the generous Corrections staff that made this possible. It’s a real morale lift knowing that there are staff out there in other parts of the country that are thinking about us here in Christchurch."

"It means so much more than the actual money that my employer and colleagues care enough to organise this and contribute.”

Home Detention pilot fosters teamwork

A pilot amalgamation of Auckland probation officers managing Home Detention is paying dividends in service improvement. The project has fostered a strong team culture and a significant increase in compliance with mandatory standards – from 81 percent in January to 100 percent in May, says Community Probation Services (CPS) Regional Manager Northern, Linda Biddle.

Probation officers on a pilot project have shown improved performance in the way they manage offenders on home detention.“Service improvements like this make a valuable contribution toward reducing re-offending and creating safer communities.” The new team combines probation staff from across Auckland who manage a total of 135 offenders on the electronically monitored sentence of Home Detention. These staff were previously part of broad-based probation teams operating from the five service centres of New Lynn, Onehunga, Mt Eden, Otahuhu and Panmure.

Mrs Biddle says the 14 staff now work as a dedicated Home Detention team, training together and sharing their knowledge and experience to improve service delivery. “This has enabled many opportunities for professional development and a remarkable improvement in service delivery,” says Mrs Biddle.

“It is a credit to the dedication and professionalism of our staff that compliance with mandatory standards has improved so rapidly in this new structure – from 81 percent early this year to 100 percent in May.” Mandatory standards are the measures that probation officers must put in place to ensure offenders meet the conditions of the sentence or order they are serving. CPS’ new operating model enables probation staff to use their professional judgment to assess additional needs, such as more regular report-ins or support programmes, to help reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

“Our probation officers face a challenging environment every day – working with offenders who have been ordered by the courts to serve a sentence in the community. Their workload includes home visits and liaising with offenders and wh?nau to agree rehabilitative measures that will help them turn their lives around.”

In addition to 135 offenders on Home Detention, the new team manages 120 on post detention conditions (at the completion of their Home Detention, which is a maximum of a one-year sentence).

Home Detention is an electronically monitored sentence that can be imposed by the judiciary as an alternative to a prison term of up to two years. Offenders must wear an electronic anklet to monitor their whereabouts at all times. If they try to remove the anklet, or leave the monitored property without permission, an alarm is triggered and a security guard is sent to the address. Those on Home Detention can only work outside the approved address if authorised by their probation officer. Offenders can apply for approved absences such as rehabilitation, study or healthcare. These absences are also monitored.

Positive results from treating violent offenders

What’s new in the research?

In 1998 a 30-bed unit was established at Rimutaka Prison which was to be dedicated to the treatment of violent offenders.

Since then, a group treatment programme has operated providing high intensity treatment to higher risk violent offenders, and the latest evaluation carried out by Devon Polaschek* at Victoria University provides some encouraging results.

As Polaschek notes, despite concern over violent offending in the developed world, there have, to date, been relatively few well-controlled evaluations of the effectiveness of programmes designed to treat people who have a significant history of violent offending.

In her investigation, Polaschek reports on the downstream reoffending of 112 men who had entered the Unit since its opening in 1998 and who had had at least 12 months since release in which they could reoffend. The outcomes for these men were compared with a group of men of similar risk of reoffending who had not had the benefit of participating in the Violence Prevention Unit Programme.

The findings from this evaluation were encouraging. Polaschek found that fewer high risk programme completers were reconvicted for any offence, or for a violent offence during an average of 3.5 years of post-release follow up. Moreover, those who completed the programme re-offended at rates more slowly than untreated offenders who were at a similar risk of re-offending.

It is worth noting that this was a well-conducted, well-controlled evaluation of treatment outcome, and confidence can be placed in these findings.


When a little success is promising
Te Whare Manaakitanga at Rimutaka Prison is a unit that concentrates on changing ingrained violent behaviour in higher risk offenders.
Over an average of 3.5 years since release, 10% to 12% fewer Te Whare Manaakitanga programme completers were reconvicted for violence compared with similar untreated prisoners. This may sound modest, but considering how exceedingly difficult it is to change violent behaviour it’s a promising success and reflects well on the dedicated staff working with such challenging offenders.

*Polaschek, D.L.L. (2011). High-intensity rehabilitation for violent offenders in New Zealand: Reconviction outcomes for high – and medium-risk prisoners.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, pp 664-682.

Supporting Pacific prisoners to quit smoking

(L-R) Anita Kalonihea; Luisa Soloai, Waikeria Prison Health Manager Cheryl O'Byrne, Jane Marsden and Waikeria Prison Non-smoking Implementation Manager Graham Dallas at a smoking cessation presentation for Pacific prisoners.A smoking cessation presentation to 30 Pacific prisoners at Waikeria helped motivated them to stop smoking. Anita Kalonihea, a member of the Waikeria Prison Pacific Advisory Group (WPPAG) also works for K’aute Pasifika and contacted Waikeria Prison Manager Kevin Smith offering to come into the prison to do the presentation.

The presenters spoke about the health benefits of stopping smoking and used an analogy of the body being like a high performance car that can’t function at peak performance if you don’t use the right fuel. The prisoners knew exactly what they spend each week on cigarettes and the presenters highlighted how much extra they would have to spend on other items on the canteen list when they stopped smoking.

Enlarged images of smokers’ lungs and non-smokers’ lungs as well as throat and lung cancers illustrated the health effects of smoking.
Prisoners were also told about the value of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). Health Manager Cherryl O’Byrne explained how prisoners could access NRT and spoke about other support available in prison.

Minister's column

For many prisoners, the past month would have been the first time in their adult lives that they have not smoked tobacco.

Minister of Corrections Judith CollinsIt will also have been the first week that our Corrections staff have not been forced to breathe poisonous second-hand smoke while on the job.

On 1 July, our prisons became smoke-free. The move was announced a year ago, during which time prisoners (and staff) were offered plenty of support to help them quit.

In my view, making our prisons smoke-free was something we had no choice but to do.

Two-thirds of prisoners that come into Corrections’ custody are smokers. That’s triple the rate of smoking in the community.

Many prisoners are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. If we’re serious about helping them beat these problems we shouldn’t have addictive substances of any kind in our prisons, including tobacco.

Prison is not just about keeping criminals out of circulation. It’s also an opportunity for them to break bad habits and leave prison healthier and better equipped to lead a law-abiding life.

We also had an obligation to our staff.

Air quality studies of prisons have shown that the staff and prisoners can be exposed to 12 times the levels of second-hand smoke than in the home of an indoor smoker.

Our prisons were the only workplaces left in New Zealand where staff had no choice but to breathe second-hand smoke. This situation simply could not continue.

The smoking ban could not have been implemented without an incredible amount of work within Prison Services and across the Department.

The National Implementation Team and Site Implementation Managers have been working closely with prison sites for the past year to prepare them for the ban.

Dozens of prison staff have trained as Workplace Champions who offered practical support and advice to their colleagues and prisoners who wanted to quit smoking.

Prison Health Staff have been very busy undertaking nicotine replacement therapy assessments and supplying patches and lozenges to prisoners and staff.

And, of course, our frontline corrections officers, who have been working with prisoners every day, giving them support and encouragement, and keeping an eye open for problems.

The smoking ban was a significant change and one that was undertaken with utmost professionalism by all involved.

Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections


Operational Intelligence is the team in charge of collecting information, analysing it and making connections, allowing us to combat criminal activities within prison.

The team is on the constant look-out for information about who prisoners are associating with, criminal activities in prison, which drugs are being introduced and how they’re coming through and any tensions in the prison. The sources of their information are alert staff who report suspicious activity, telephone monitoring and other means. Recently at Spring Hill Corrections Facility intelligence information led to a 25-litre batch of homebrew containing vodka, a cellphone, and an Allen key. The contraband items were confiscated and the three laundry workers lost their jobs.

In March at Tongariro / Rangipo Prison, targeted telephone monitoring identified a prisoner communicating with his ex-partner in relation to real estate that had been purchased through the proceeds of drug dealing. The information was forwarded to Police for further investigation.

Intelligence gathered at Wellington Prison identified a prisoner who was planning an escape. The prisoner intended to secure a placement in the paint gang and had arranged for other prisoners in the group to divert the attention of the instructor while he launched his escape. A getaway car was to be used to facilitate his escape and once free he was planning to leave the country by boat. His plans were uncovered and as a result the prisoner was transferred to Rimutaka Prison and had his security classification re-assessed.


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Jason Palmer remembered

A moving tribute to the life of Corrections Officer Jason Palmer was held at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Te Kauwhata on 16 May, one year since Jason died after being assaulted by a prisoner.

The Jason Palmer Memorial Garden at Spring Hill Corrections Facility honours Corrections Officer Jason Palmer who died in service a year ago, as well as all staff at Spring Hill who have passed away.Jason’s wife Tracy, their children Abbey and Riley, and other friends and family joined Minister of Corrections, Hon Judith Collins, Chief Executive Ray Smith, Deputy Chief Executive Christine Stevenson and other staff to remember a loved husband, father, friend and colleague.

At 11am, as the service was beginning, Corrections staff around New Zealand marked one minute’s silence to commemorate Jason’s passing.

Tracy spoke about how Jason had finally found the career that he absolutely loved and was very happy working at Spring Hill. She also acknowledged the tremendous support she had received from the Department and that she felt part of the Corrections family.
Prison Manager Gavin Dalziel talked about Tracy’s strength following her husband’s passing and the relationship that staff from the site had continued to nurture with the family over the last year.

“You have inspired us with your grace, and we are so proud to call you our friend, and to be your Corrections family, even though the circumstances are so sad.”

Later, Minister Collins and Tracy unveiled the Jason Palmer Memorial Garden.

While the garden is named in Jason’s memory, it is a place of reflection and remembrance for the family, friends and colleagues of all staff from Spring Hill and those connected with the area, who have passed away. It was designed and built primarily by staff, who held working bees while rostered off duty.

Contact details

Corrections News is published bi-monthly by the Department of Corrections

Postal: Private Box 1206 Wellington 6140
Phone: (04) 460 3365