Corrections News Jul-Aug 2012
Chief Executive's comment
The Department of Corrections has taken a number of decisive steps forward over the last few months as we change the way we work to create lasting changes in offenders’ lives.
In June I set out our new structure. Built around changing the way we work in order to reduce the rates of re-offending by 25% by 2017, the new structure includes combining all our services – prisons, community probation, rehabilitation and employment – together in one operational team to ensure we focus on what’s right for the offender and the community.
Most offenders are serving sentences in the community, and of those in prison, the vast majority will leave one day and be living next door to you and me. I want people who leave prison to do so with the skills they need to be productive members of our communities. To do this we need to transform the way we work. Through greater access to drug and alcohol treatment, targeted rehabilitation programmes and an emphasis on gaining the skills necessary for employment, we can turn people’s lives around.
An important part of our success will be down to working closely with you and all our partners in the local community and wider justice sector. To promote this at a local level, I have strengthened our regions and made it possible for decision-making and stakeholder engagement to take place as close to the frontline as possible. Together we can forge a better outcome for offenders and safeguard the public.
I am very conscious of the fact that this is a significant change for my staff. It involves the loss of up to 130 positions along with a significant sea change in the way we operate. I am committed to making sure we work through this process with fairness and integrity.
A 25% reduction in re-offending by 2017 means 600 fewer prisoners and 4,000 fewer community offenders, as well as a chance at a better life for people society has turned its back on. More importantly, if we can turn offender’s lives around we will have 18,500 fewer victims of crime, and that makes what we do here at Corrections worthwhile.
Smoke-free prisons win award
New Zealand is the first country in the world to completely ban smoking in prisons nationwide. The Smoke-free Prisons policy was introduced without incident on 1 July 2011, following a comprehensive and well-planned 12-month lead-in period.
Cleaner air in prisons, and a reduction in smoking-related illnesses are just some of the benefits one year on.
The achievement was acknowledged on 27 June 2012 – nearly a year since implementation – when Corrections won the Talent2 Award for Excellence in the Public Sector Communications category at the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) Gen-i Awards.
The Awards recognise outstanding achievements in the public sector, and Corrections was one of 27 finalists across eight categories chosen from more than 70 nominations.
Corrections commissioned an independent evaluation to determine the success of the policy. Five prison sites were visited as part of the evaluation data and research gathering.
- There were no incidents of violence associated with the policy. Although several serious potential risks were identified – none of them eventuated. At two of the prisons visited, tensions between prisoners and between prisoners and staff actually improved.
- The number of fires lit by prisoners reduced markedly.
- No evidence was found of staff smoking within the secure perimeter.
- Staff reported improvements in working conditions, appreciating the benefits of the smoke-free environment, with many giving up or cutting down their smoking.
Justifying the IPANZ nomination, the evaluation found that staff understood the purpose of the smoke-free policy, and were committed to its success.
Staff and prisoners were positive about the promotional activities used in the lead up to the ban and staff had introduced a number of innovative activities to support the policy.
“We’ve had some very big thank yous from a couple of prisoners who feel so much better – asthmatics that are suddenly not using their Ventolin all the time.” – Health staff member at Otago Corrections Facility.
“People would say ‘no, I could never quit’, but now they know that they can.” – Health staff member at Otago Corrections Facility.
“It’s a healthier environment for both staff and prisoners.” – Custodial staff member at Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility.
Benefits for prisoners included an improvement in their health, finances and confidence, as well as becoming positive role models for children and wider whänau.
“I will definitely remain smoke-free. I will never ever smoke again. I didn’t start until I was 27 and that’s because I was in prison. If they brought it back in tomorrow I wouldn’t be buying any.” – Prisoner at Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
Air pollution halved at Auckland Prison
A study undertaken at Auckland Prison showed that the smoking ban halved air pollution levels.
The aim of the research, by Dr Simon Thornley from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, was to determine whether the tobacco ban would improve the indoor air quality of a maximum-security prison. An air quality monitor was put in a staff base next to four 12-cell wings. It measured air pollution before the ban, during the first month of the ban in which tobacco sales were restricted, and for two months after the smoke-free policy was implemented.
The Ministry for the Environment says that a daily average of 25 micrograms of pollution per cubic metre of ‘ambient’ air is cause for concern. Initial average measurements at Auckland Prison were 6.58 micrograms. These declined to 5.17 during the tobacco purchase ban, and fell to 2.44 after the smoke-free policy took effect.
The full research results have been published in the Journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
Will prisoners remain smoke-free on release?
Prison Nurse Kirstin Harrison, who is working towards her Masters of Nursing degree, researched how likely offenders were to maintain a smoke-free lifestyle on release.
Kirstin asked two questions;
- How likely are you to smoke a cigarette in the next 12 months?
- How likely are you to smoke a cigarette if a friend offered you one?
Kirsten says these questions have been identified internationally as predictors of susceptibility to smoking. Unfortunately, most respondents indicated they would smoke again if they had the opportunity although around half agreed with the smoking ban.
”My study shows that prisoners need support to remain smoke-free on release. This process needs to begin when prisoners are close to their release date,” says Kirstin.
Currently, prisoners being released are encouraged to apply the techniques and coping mechanisms they learned in prison when they are back in the community. They are encouraged to get further support from the Quit group and take up an additional course of Nicotine Replacement Therapy if they need it.
Changes to prisoners’ health
In another evaluation, Prison Nurse Stephanie Muir completed research for her Masters of Nursing degree. Stephanie’s thesis explored the changes in health perceptions of men in prison following the smoking ban.
Twelve prisoners were interviewed and completed a quality of life questionnaire in November 2011. Forty prisoners also completed two separate lung age tests between May and October 2011 to compare lung age before and after the smoking ban.
Stephanie says four main themes emerged from the interviews;
- an increase in exercise tolerance with improvements in general health
- an ability to taste food again
- an acknowledgement of stress
- the reasons behind beginning smoking.
Eighty percent of the prisoners who answered the lung age questions noted their lung ages had decreased and their physical health had improved.
Stephanie says it was interesting to note that men older than 35 did not improve as quickly as men under 35. “This tells us that the older you are, the longer it takes to see the benefits of quitting smoking.” Few prisoners had lung ages that were the same as their chronological age; most were significantly higher.
“While the smoking ban was not voluntary, many prisoners have enjoyed the improvement to their health. Assisting prisoners once they leave prison to remain smoke-free is a new challenge for community health,” says Stephanie.
And if the health benefits aren’t enough motivation to remain smoke-free on release, the Budget 2012 which will raise the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes to more than $20 by 2016, may be!Waikeria Prison Pacific Day 2012
A Pacific Day at Waikeria Prison was an opportunity to acknowledge Pacific people and support Pacific Island prisoners.
About 70 people from the community attended including staff from the Waikeria Prison Pacific Advisory Group, Te Rapakau Pacific Trust and Kaute Pasifika.
The last Pacific day we had was in 2008, so it was time to celebrate our culture,” says Regional Advisor Pacific Sosefo ‘Sef’ Bourke.
The day incorporated a Te Rapakau Pacific Trust performing arts programme graduation for 10 prisoners. The men performed and demonstrated what they had learnt to an audience of family members.
“The programme helped the men develop a connection to their Pacific Island culture and identity. It also showed them how men from all cultures can work together with respect for each other,” says Sef.
Reducing re-offending by 25%
The New Zealand Government has set Better Public Services targets to reduce crime, and re-offending. This is one of 10 “challenging results” which Prime Minister John Key has said “are crucial in creating a more innovative and focused public service”.
Corrections’ commitment to this is the target of reducing re-offending by 25% by 2017.
This will be a significant challenge, but it is a goal we can achieve by working together to create lasting change for the offenders we manage. Achieving this target will mean safer communities and 18,500 fewer victims.
A number of changes are underway within Corrections that will help us achieve this target, including:
Strengthening our interventions in the areas where they can do the most good. As well as new programmes, a number of our successful programmes will be expanded to include more offenders. The Department is also looking at some existing programmes to see what changes could be made to make them more effective.
Having specific interventions for offender groups such as female offenders, short-stay offenders, young offenders, remand offenders, offenders on community work sentences and Mäori offenders.
Introducing new technologies that allow staff to work more effectively, be more mobile and safer on the job.
Changing the way we are structured to unify our efforts toward ensuring offenders receive the help they need to stop committing crimes.
Working more closely with our partners in the justice sector and local communities to help offenders secure accommodation, jobs and ongoing support to reduce the risk they pose to society.
Reconfiguring our prisons. We will close two prisons in Wellington and New Plymouth that have reached the end of their life, as well as closing obsolete parts of Arohata, Rolleston, Tongariro/Rangipo and Waikeria prisons. At the same time we are investing in refurbishing Invercargill and Auckland prisons and will plan future developments at Waikeria and Tongariro/Rangipo prisons.
To achieve our goal we will need to be creative and flexible in the solutions we find. Our plan to reduce re-offending involves developing new and innovative approaches, while expanding and strengthening existing services with proven results. This plan will evolve over the next five years to ensure we are responsive to changing offender needs. We will be agile and take full advantage of opportunities to succeed.
Trades training graduation gives new hope
The first group of prisoners to undertake the 17-week trades training courses at Christchurch Men’s Prison graduated on 1 June.
The 29 graduates now hold Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) level 2 National Certificate equivalents in automotive engineering, pre-trade painting, and plumbing and drain-laying.
Several of the graduates have already been released, and Corrections case managers are working closely with Work and Income to find them suitable jobs so they can gain further experience and use their training to support themselves and their families.
Corrections Inmate Employment Area Operations Manager Garron Starr, says one of the first graduates to be released has now been working as an apprentice mechanic for nearly two months.
“He’s a young guy of 23. It was his first time in jail and he doesn’t want to come back. Although he had no qualifications, he excelled in the workshop and was way ahead of the instructor’s expectations. He’s doing well with a business owner who was prepared to give him a second chance. This opportunity has given him new hope that he can lead a good life from now on,” says Garron.
Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services General Manager Alison Thom said the skills the graduates had learned would help towards rebuilding Christchurch after the region’s big earthquakes.
It was estimated around 30,000 additional tradespeople would be needed to support Christchurch’s rebuild programme.
“There is a double benefit in that the training makes prisoners more employable – and therefore less likely to re-offend – as well as contributing to the rebuilding of Christchurch,” she said.
The three trade training workshops opened at Christchurch Men’s Prison in November 2011.
Forty-eight more prisoners started the second 17-week courses on 11 June.
Spring Hill open day showcases prisoner training
On May 2 Spring Hill Corrections Facility showcased prisoner employment and training opportunities to a select group of around 20 major employers.
They included senior executives from Fletcher Building, NZBUS, Turners and Growers, KiwiRail, the Industry Training Federation and Dame Cath Tizard, the Patron of the Howard League for Penal Reform Inc.
The employers saw first-hand the wide variety of employment and training programmes offered at Spring Hill, including observing and interacting with prisoners working in eight different CIE workshops.
“The conditions and facilities at Spring Hill surprised me – the mood to provide an environment of behaviour and skill changes for the prisoners is apparent and will reap rewards. I believe business can assist in providing future support and I look forward to the Auckland Chamber being part of that support,” said Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce Michael Barnett.
NZ Howard League CEO Mike Williams was delighted with the success of the visit.
“Tony Gibbs (NZ Howard League President) and I have been canvassing major employers for jobs for released prisoners and have been getting an extremely positive response. Corrections’ emphasis on this aspect of reintegration is most welcome. It is statistically proven that making work available on release cuts re-offending dramatically,” he said.
“The group was very impressed with the quality and range of training on offer. Open days like this one really strengthen our links with employers and help us begin working with them to develop new employment initiatives,” said Corrections Inmate Employer Area Operations Manager Andy Barr.
Andy says positive outcomes have already surfaced from the day.
“We’ve had enquiries from two companies in the horticulture and packing sectors which will lead to four prisoners starting on Release to Work shortly. Also, our engineering instructor is looking at an opportunity for us to fix bus panelling inside the prison, which would be great training for those prisoners working towards engineering qualifications,” he says.
'Surprised and inspired'
"I was surprised and inspired by what I saw at Spring Hill. It was great talking with the trainees [prisoners] and seeing their enthusiasm for what they were learning. It was very professional and the quality of the workmanship impressive. It was good to see such practical work being done which gives the trainees a real opportunity to have good solid careers once they leave Spring Hill.
“Spring Hill will ensure we only get the best candidates with the best fit for role because it is important that the success rates are high so that the programme becomes self-sustaining. This helps in our search for excellent candidates. I also think employees within the larger organisations can become educated around trainees turning their lives around and becoming success stories.
“Many people have set views and ideas about Spring Hill trainees and need to widen their thinking. There are many people currently working in organisations who have made mistakes, done their time in prison and once out contributed positively in workforces around the country.” - Mary Johnston, General Manager – Human Resources, Downer.
A five week secondment to Samoa for Learning & Development Adviser Steve Dunnington and Custodial Systems Manager Brenden Makinson was no holiday. Supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, they went as part of a taskforce to help set up the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Service.
Currently, Samoa’s prisons are run by Police, they have no perimeter security, a very basic security classification system, no at-risk units and are suffering from over-crowding.
In recent years, the return of deported Samoan offenders who have developed violent street gang behaviour in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, has led to an increase in violent crimes. This has compounded the over-crowding problem and the need to manage additional maximum security prisoners.
Legislation going through Parliament will establish a dedicated Samoa Prisons and Corrections Service with the aim of upgrading and modernising the prison system.
To establish this new system, Samoa needs to train existing police officers to be corrections officers and recruit new corrections officers.
By the end of their secondment, Steve and Brenden had worked with the taskforce to develop a training and recruitment guide, and a prison management processes report. The response from the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Service was extremely positive.
Basics lead to better lives
A Community Probation initiative in Waitakere has helped over 60 offenders to improve their employment and training prospects.
The Pai Rawe pre-employment programme is delivered in weekly sessions by tertiary-funded provider West Auckland Education. The Basic Work and Living Skills course includes writing CVs and cover letters, applying online for jobs, and preparing for interviews.
Participants get linked in with other government agencies, training institutes and industry organisations to explore what they might like to do and what they need to do to get there.
Community work offenders must complete the 25 hour course to have the hours counted against their sentence. Other participants have taken part as a condition of their home detention, supervision or intensive supervision sentence.
Service Manager John Scriven says it’s been a learning curve since the programme began last year but the key to success is linking in with other agencies and community groups.
“We have people come in from Work and Income to sort out benefits, training allowances and industry training. We’ve had Careers NZ do one-to-one interviews with participants and we’ve had Unitec come and talk about pre-study and foundation study courses, and enrolments to get people into training.
“Northland Polytechnic has come to talk about forestry and training for forestry jobs. If you decide to get into forestry you’ve got to be drug-free and got to be tested. That’s proved an incentive for some of our offenders to stop using illegal drugs.”
John says while the training can get offenders through their community work sentences faster, there are other benefits.
“You do notice quite a large transition from the first day to the last day for most participants. Their real selves are revealed. Some have worked before and got into a bit of a downward spiral and lost motivation and lost heart. This brings a lot of them back. It also helps those with no real work experience to see they can get to grips with job seeking and have a go. We get them motivated and thinking about what might be achievable for them.
“It’s a pro-social environment where everyone is expected to show respect for others in the way they listen and express themselves. That incidental learning supports protective and stable factors that reduce the risk of re-offending. They’re learning that behaviour in the context of getting themselves organised to apply for jobs.”
John says the goal is to manage that transition to training and employment. “We’re not just saying, ‘you’ve done your course, see you later’. We’re creating links so they don’t fall into the abyss again.”
The course also shows offenders how to overcome their criminal history as a barrier to employment when talking with potential employers. “They have to be upfront about it and find a way to talk about their criminal history that so the employer can see it is behind them.”
The initiative has proved so popular that John’s team is now working with Corrections’ Rehabilitation and Employment group to look at using the Pai Rawe model with pre-release prisoners as part of their preparation for returning to the community.
Training for working with young offenders
Programme facilitators and psychologists who work on programmes are receiving specialist training in how to present existing programme material in a style that is appropriate to younger offenders.
The training will give programme facilitators a new suite of skills, including methods of making programme sessions more dynamic, such as more role-plays and out-of-seat activities that will ensure sessions do not have a classroom feel, which many young offenders dislike.
National Manager Programme Policy and Practice Gordon Sinclair says there are also certain group behaviours particular to younger offenders (under 24), which the training will help facilitators to address.
“Younger offenders are more likely to close off and become detached and distant. Their motivation is often more variable than with older groups, and so re-motivation may be more necessary. They’re also more likely to succumb to peer pressure from the rest of the group,” he says.
Gordon says a pilot of the training is being undertaken with those who work in Youth Units.
“The training requires quite a lot of self-directed study beforehand, so to give people time to do that we began the first round in the Youth Units in June. We’ll roll training out to all community and prison-based programme facilitators later in the year,” he says.
Quilts: no value until loved
Mary Ann France leads a group of volunteer quilters at Auckland Regional Women’s Corrections Facility who teach the ‘Friday girls’ or the ‘Saturday girls,’ depending on their quilting day, how to hand stitch beautiful quilts.
Mary Ann has been a volunteer for six years and, with 11 others, takes the women through a course of stitching and quilt making.
“These ladies learn the basics of how to thread a needle, take measurements, iron and choose colours. Many have not done these things before,” says Mary Ann.
They start by making a quilted patchwork shopping bag, a rolled sewing kit and an ‘angel’ baby’s quilt. Finally, they make a full-sized quilt for themselves or their families.
Recently the offenders donated 32 baby quilts to Kidz First Children’s Hospital, based on the Middlemore site in Manukau. The quilts are added to packs of hand knitted baby clothes issued to mums and their babies.
Fabric is donated by people across New Zealand, including other quilters and companies who hear about the prison quilting.
Mary Ann says the quilting is a positive, enjoyable and sociable activity. Both volunteers and offenders have a good rapport. “The women really feel they are giving something back to those in need. They are delighted to be involved in a constructive activity, both while they are behind the wire and upon release.”
Mary Ann says a quilt has ‘no value until it has been loved’.
Diane McEntee, Co-ordinator of the Wool Programme was delighted to receive the donated quilts. “These have been made and given with the knowledge that they will be helping keep some wee baby warm,” says Diane.
“Every knitter, sewer and quilter who donates to our wool programme does it with kindness in their heart. It is particularly special to receive these now, as winter’s here and temperatures are dropping. We are very thankful for this donation.”
Effectively treating child sex offenders
A research study by Canterbury University Masters student Lucy Moore has provided fresh results affirming the efficiency of treatment at Kia Marama, a specialist prison treatment programme for child sex offenders.
Lucy gained a Master’s degree in psychology with her research which was completed with the support of the Department’s external research process.
“The research was a great achievement, especially as Lucy had to grapple with the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes along the way!” says Principal Research Adviser Sally Faisandier.
In order to define a control group whose risk factors were the same as the group being studied, Lucy’s research, supervised by Professor Randolph Grace, used statistical methods to develop models that made the treated and untreated groups equal across a range of risk factors.
“The study included all offenders who had committed a sexual offence against a child and who were released between 1998 and 2010. This meant the sample sizes were the largest possible, providing the most reliable results,” says Lucy.
The study examined the criminal history and post-release outcomes for 428 sexual offenders against children who had attended Kia Marama and were followed up for an average of 6.36 years. They were compared with a cohort of 1,956 offenders who were also incarcerated for sexual offending against children but did not attend Kia Marama or a similar Special Treatment Unit and were followed up for an average of 6.81 years.
The results showed that attending Kia Marama was associated with a 29 percent reduction in sexual re-offending (from 10 percent down to 7.2 percent), and the reduction was statistically significant. Results also showed that treatment significantly reduced the rates of both violent re-offending (from 18.4 percent to 10.3 percent) and general re-offending (from 40.2 percent to 32.7 percent).
Lucy says it is noteworthy that the treated offenders showed a lower risk of violent and general recidivism, as sexual offences are sometimes reduced to violent or general convictions as a result of plea-bargaining, and therefore a reduction in violent and general recidivism may also suggest further reductions in sexual recidivism.
“Our results are further strengthened by the fact that we included drop-outs and non-completers in the study, and it has been previously demonstrated that this subgroup of offenders typically presents the highest risk of recidivism post-release,” says Lucy.
Overall, the results show that programmes such as Kia Marama are worthwhile investments to protect the potential victims of sexual offending and to reduce the social and economic costs associated with re-offending.
Dr Peter Johnston, Manager of Corrections Strategic Analysis and Research Team, comments that Lucy’s research adds to the growing knowledge base concerning recidivism and desistance amongst imprisoned sex offenders. It augments other published research undertaken within Strategic Analysis and Research, such as a five-year follow-up analysis of sex offenders, available on our website.
Minister's Column: Hon Anne Tolley
It’s important that Corrections staff have the tools to do their job and the Government is constantly looking at ways to make improvements, especially around the safety of staff and communities.
I recently made two announcements which directly affect staff and the way they do their jobs.
From August, and for the first time in New Zealand, 24-hour Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring of high-risk offenders is to be introduced to strengthen public safety.
Real time monitoring, using ankle bracelets, will track the movements of offenders in the community, and Corrections staff will be alerted and can intervene if offenders stray into exclusion zones such as parks, schools and other specific locations or if they break curfew.
In addition, over the next few months all prison staff are to be trained in the tactical use of pepper spray, which will be available in all prisons. This follows a successful year-long trial in a number of prisons, which showed that pepper spray is an effective tactical option and deterrent, which can reduce the risk of injury to both staff and prisoners in some potentially violent situations.
Officers will not routinely carry pepper spray on their belts, due to the risk of prisoners assaulting staff and stealing the spray, which could then be used against officers and other prisoners.
The number of serious assaults on prison staff has fallen dramatically, down 75 per cent over the last fifteen years. However, the threat never goes away and the recent serious assault of a Corrections officer at Rimutaka Prison was extremely distressing.
Thankfully, the officer is on the mend, and when I visited him in hospital recently he was in good spirits. His family was also full of praise for the Corrections Department, and all the support they have given.
Being a Corrections officer, and working in the probation service, can be difficult occupations, and we will continue to do all we can to make improvements to benefit staff and the public.
Hon Anne Tolley
Minister of Corrections
You've got email!
‘You’ve got email!’ is a phrase that prisoners at Rimutaka Prison’s Drug Treatment Unit have heard plenty of recently.
In April 2012 Corrections began a three month ‘email a prisoner’ trial at Rimutaka Prison, enabling prisoners to receive email messages from their family and friends.
Through regular post, prisoners sent an information sheet to their family and friends explaining how the email trial works, including what rules are in place for incoming emails, and the email address to send their messages to.
Principal Corrections Officer (PCO) Lindsay Helson checks the inbox and prints any emails for prisoners. The emails are screened for any inappropriate, illegal or objectionable material, before they’re passed on.
Prisoners have no access to the internet, and reply via regular post.
So far the trial is proving very successful, with over 50 emails from a number of senders.
“It’s encouraging to see a steady increase in the number of people who are choosing to email their friend or family member in prison,” says Matthew Welton, Acting Principal Corrections Officer at Rimutaka Prison.
Matthew, who initiated the idea with Chief Executive Ray Smith, is pleased with how the trial is progressing. “At first we were only seeing emails from New Zealanders but now people in Australia and Europe are sending emails too. As long as someone has internet access the cost to send an email instead of regular ‘snail mail’ is virtually nil, and it’s quicker!”
Although new to Corrections, ‘email a prisoner’ is not a new concept. A similar scheme has been running successfully in the United Kingdom since 2006.
“The UK version is an online user pays system, whereas the system we’re trialling is completely free and people can send an email directly from their personal email account,” explains Jeanette Burns, Acting General Manager Prison Services.
“Maintaining relationships with their support network becomes even more important for people in prison and having regular contact with their loved ones has a positive impact on their general wellbeing. This is especially true for prisoners without family in New Zealand,” says Jeanette.
“Inbound prisoner email is a natural progression for Corrections,” continues Jeanette. The benefits go both ways. For Corrections this means that ultimately security of our prisons is improved because email can’t be used to smuggle contraband, such as drugs.”
“Depending on the findings of the evaluation, we’re hoping to roll out ‘email a prisoner’ nationally.”
Graffiti a thing of the past
Eradicating graffiti vandalism is par for the course for up to seven community work offenders every Sunday, working from the Waitakere Community Work Centre in Waitemata. The initiative is an ongoing partnership between Auckland City Council, Corrections and KiwiRail.
KiwiRail’s ‘partnering guide’ notes that beautification of the rail corridor provides meaningful work for people sentenced to community work as well as providing cost savings for the railway owner, the local authority and the community.
Community Work Supervisor Dave Venables says the project is a lot of hard work, and that it’s all about perseverance. “But I’ve not known one guy who thinks it’s a waste of time. Physically, they can see the real difference they’ve made at the end of each day,” he says.
In order to work along Auckland’s rail corridor all community work supervisors must undertake a half-day initial training course run by KiwiRail; then ‘top-up’ reminder courses every two years. The supervisor then provides a pre-safety briefing when dealing with each group of new offenders; and every day they’re working on the project they receive refresher training.
Dave has undertaken additional KiwiRail training (a ‘learner licence for rail safety’ and ‘automatic signalling and safety rules’) and says workers have to be aware at all times. “I have an airhorn to gain offenders’ attention, and the men know they need to look to me for instructions at all times,” he says. ‘Amazing Dave’, as the offenders have dubbed him, is proud of his 99 percent turnout rate and says the men enjoy the stability of being with the same supervisor.
An Australian-based visitor wrote to Auckland Transport recently, having caught a train from Henderson into the city. “My expectation was an old and dirty railway station with carriages to match and a depressing outlook en-route. To my amazement I found the opposite…to add to the growing positive impressions I was receiving was a wonderfully clean, tidy track and most amazing of all – NO GRAFFITI or rubbish was visible on the entire journey… I have never been so impressed! Such positive changes! As a result, I will now happily catch the train tomorrow…”.