Corrections News May-June 2013

Chief Executive's comment

Ray Smith CEOWe all know that meeting people’s basic needs is the first step toward them being able to lead a productive and fulfilled life.

Once people have their immediate needs such as food, water, shelter and warmth taken care of, they can then move on to those other areas that contribute to a better life, for example safety, relationships and education.

It’s no real surprise then, that when you look through the pages of Corrections News, the work we do at Corrections is directly linked to first meeting people’s most basic needs, and then providing the skills and support that will provide quality of life.

We do this in many ways, from our prisoners growing food for local communities to training our staff to take care of themselves and others in potentially dangerous situations.

We’re also helping offenders get ahead through a new partnership we’ve launched with the Open Polytechnic, and young offenders can now take advantage of a new audio-visual programme to build their literacy skills.

New Plymouth Prison, which was New Zealand’s oldest prison, closed in March 2013 after 140 years of use. In this edition of Corrections News, we look back at New Plymouth Prison and its place in our history. We also look ahead – we’re making it easier for family members to stay in touch with prisoners who were moved from New Plymouth to Whanganui Prison by setting up virtual visits.

Finally, Corrections News has been our flagship publication for some years. We want to make sure that it’s a magazine you’ll look forward to reading and sharing with your friends and colleagues. Look out for our next issue in September 2013; we’re making changes including a new look, new content, a new name and a new frequency.

Let us know if you have any ideas about stories that you’d like to see in upcoming issues – we’re always happy to hear from our readers. You can email

Ray Smith
Chief Executive

Staff boosted by more initial training

The launch of the Get Ahead programme at Arohata Prison. (L-R) Corrections General Manager Service Development Jo Field, Minister of Corrections Hon Anne Tolley, Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig, and Open Polytechnic Chair Graeme Hall. Corrections and the Open Polytechnic are working together to reduce re-offending by giving up to 1000 offenders a year a free place in the ‘Get Ahead to NCEA’ learning programme.

More than 400 prisoners have already signed up for the free programme, which offers supported learning towards either the National Certificate in Employment Skills (Level 1) or the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) Levels 1 and 2.

Eligible prisoners and community-based offenders who sign up will improve their literacy, job and personal skills, and increase their chances of getting a permanent job.

Through a mixture of self-directed study and weekly coaching sessions they’ll learn skills including basic maths, communicating with family, friends and workmates, and understanding letters, forms and notices. They’ll also explore different vocations and learn more about other training or academic opportunities.

The Open Polytechnic has refocused the bulk of their ‘foundation level’ funding to support offender education with programmes such as ‘Get Ahead’.

Minster of Corrections Hon Anne Tolley officially launched the programme at Arohata Prison on 21 February, alongside Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig, and Corrections’ General Manager Service Development Jo Field.

Jo says research shows education and employment can reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

“Successful completion of rehabilitation programmes and gaining employment are linked with lower recidivism. Corrections is committed to reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017, and in order to do this we need to increase the level of literacy, education and employment training available to offenders.

“This programme will contribute to our goal of having 2,000 prisoners a year complete self-directed study and 6,000 community-based offenders receive education and training leading to stable employment,” she says.

The ‘Get Ahead’ programme sits alongside established Corrections training and education initiatives that contribute to offender rehabilitation, such as training prisoners in industries where there are skill shortages, and the Release to Work programme.

‘Get Ahead’ will be rolled out nationwide in three stages; the first and second cohorts were rolled out in February and April, with the third cohort starting in June 2013.

Detector dog training in Samoa

Detector dog in action. National Manager Detector Dog Services John Gallagher recently returned from Samoa where he delivered detector dog training to the combined Samoa Police/Customs K9 Unit.

The joint unit operates two drug detector dogs which are responsible for protecting the borders.

Police run the Pacific Island Detector Dog Programme which is funded by the Pacific Security Fund. The programme involves training dogs and their handlers here in New Zealand for nine weeks and then provides regular ongoing training and mentoring in the Pacific Islands.

John used to work in the Police dog training unit, so he has all the skills and knowledge needed to run the training programme. When Police were unable to send someone to Samoa themselves, they asked John, who had recently made the move to Corrections.

“The dog handlers in the Islands don’t have the expertise yet to maintain capability. Our training support assesses how they are operating and identifies areas which they could adapt and alternative ways to deploy the dog teams. We also make sure the dog handlers are working to the required level,” says John.

Dog handlers from Samoa's combined Police/Customs K9 Unit prepare for work. While in Samoa, the New Zealand trainers also ‘train the trainers’ with a long-term vision of creating self-sustainability in the Pacific Islands.

The work of the teams is central to the security of their own islands, but also the wider security of NZ as the islands are recognised as transition points that have potential to threaten our borders. The programme provides support to Samoa, Tonga and Rarotonga (and previously Fiji).

John says it was a good opportunity for Corrections to lend a helping hand to Police when they needed it and to share resources.

Come play at Berhampore School


Some of Berhampore School’s forested play areas were so overgrown they were inaccessible.

“We wanted an area that attracts native wildlife and is an inviting and beautiful place for the community to enjoy. We also want it to be a valuable teaching resource for the school kids,” says Neil Beckett, a parent of the Wellington school.

“We called in Corrections’ community work teams and as the photos show, they have done a great job. They will also help with maintenance to make sure Berhampore can keep on playing.”

Job Club in Otara

Job Club is all about getting back into the workforce. From April, offenders on community-based sentences in Otara have benefitted from a new Corrections Job Club, making a total of eight Job Clubs run by probation.

Over 60 percent of prisoners are unemployed prior to imprisonment and 90 percent of prisoners have literacy needs – Job Club aims to make a direct impact on these figures.

Job Club is all about getting back into the workforce. It teaches offenders the skills they’ll need to present a more successful job application, including how to write a CV and how to behave at a job interview.

Job Club also complements the Basic Work and Living Skills training programmes that some offenders on community work are also sentenced to do. Basic Work and Living Skills often include literacy and numeracy, budgeting and other specified programmes used by Work and Income for their clients.

New Plymouth Prison closure

Lowering the flag for the last time at the decommissioning of New Plymouth Prison. New Zealand’s oldest prison was closed in March, after 140 years in operation. The prison was not built with rehabilitation and reintegration in mind and had become increasingly expensive to maintain and difficult to operate.

A number of events were held to mark the end of the prison’s life.

A public open day on Saturday 9 March provided a rare chance for over 4,000 members of the Taranaki community to experience life on the inside by stepping into the empty cells, sitting on beds, peering into shower blocks and wandering around the exercise yards. Gold coin donations on the day raised $4,531.30 for local charities.

Later in the week, a dawn blessing and deconsecration of the prison chapel, led by Taranaki local iwi Tikanga Oranga o Pukaka, Archbishop Philip Richardson, local Kaumatua Albie Martin and prison chaplains Margaret Monaghan and Judy Clarke was held.

Later that day, staff and invited guests gathered for the presentation of plaques to staff and speeches from Chief Executive Ray Smith and Regional Commissioner Terry Buffery before the final lowering of the flag and last locking of the prison door.

The prison has now been decommissioned, and handed over to Land Information New Zealand for management and disposal through the Crown Land process.

History of the prison

New Plymouth Prison staff 1880s - 1890s.The prison evolved from a wooden military hospital built in the 1850s, which provided care to Imperial troops injured in the conflicts of the Taranaki Wars of the 1860s.

To increase the security of the building so that it could operate as a prison, the wooden walls of the hospital building were clad in iron and cement floors were laid over a layer of stone rubble in 1870.

The prison included a kitchen, dining room, chapel, and upper storey rooms for the prison manager (gaoler) and his family. It also had a large yard for those sentenced to hard labour to break stones in (a punitive practice that continued until the late 1950s), which also contained two cells for solitary confinement.

Although the cells were mainly for men, there were also some set aside for the incarceration of female inmates. In 1908 there was accommodation for 50 male and 10 female prisoners, with the average number in custody being 25.

By the late 1870s efforts were directed towards expanding and redeveloping the prison. Construction progressed in stages, said to be the result of relying on prison labour. By 1879 the walls, roof and partitions of the building were replaced with concrete and the yard was enlarged. At this time the exterior walls were also built.

In the 1940s and 1950s, it was proposed that due to the prison being in a prime location and because of its status at the time as the national facility for sex offenders, it should be moved to somewhere less prominent. However, the solid stone construction of the building meant that removal and reconstruction was not a realistic option.

The prison was further expanded in the 1990s by the addition of a modern prisoner accommodation unit adjacent to the original stone compound, which was used as the prison’s minimum-security unit and known as Unit Two.

Prison reconfiguration project

The decision to close New Plymouth Prison was made following a review of the oldest units within the prison network that identified those no longer fit for use. 

Older prison facilities were designed with confinement and punishment in mind. In contrast, modern facilities, such as Otago Corrections Facility are focused on rehabilitation and reintegration, as well as secure confinement. They have better drug and alcohol services, improved offender access to education, can enhance employability on release and address Maori re-offending. Modern facilities also provide a better working environment for our staff.

As a result, it was decided that New Plymouth and Wellington prisons would close, along with some parts of Arohata, Rolleston, Tongariro / Rangipo and Waikeria prisons. Investment would be made into refurbishing Invercargill and Auckland prisons to ensure that maximum security capacity in Auckland is maintained, as well as adequate capacity in the South Island.

Corrections is committed to reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017 through increasing prisoners’ participation in rehabilitation, education and training/employment activities.

The Prison Reconfiguration Programme and new initiatives such as Working Prisons have been developed to support this commitment, and will play a significant part in achieving this goal alongside maximising participation in treatment and programmes that are proven to help break the cycle of re-offending.

Virtual Visits

Staying in touch with a prisoner with a virtual visit. Taranaki residents with friends and family members in Whanganui Prison now have another way of staying in touch: video conferencing.

Regional Commissioner Lower North Karen Petrie says video conferencing offers a virtual visit between the visitor and the prisoner.

“When New Plymouth Prison closed in March, the small number of prisoners left were transferred to Whanganui Prison. Now, if their friends and family in Taranaki are unable to travel for a face-to-face visit, they can arrange a virtual visit from the New Plymouth Community Probation Service Centre,” she says.

From the service centre, an approved visitor is able to see and talk to their loved one in Whanganui Prison via a television screen.

Up to three approved visitors can take part in a virtual visit at one time. Virtual visits are 30 minutes long and are available on Monday afternoons and Friday mornings.

“Maintaining connections with friends and family is important for prisoners as it helps them to build positive relationships and plays an important part in reducing re-offending.

“Virtual visits are a great initiative, and may be introduced at other prisons and probation service centres in the future,” she said.

Feedback from prisoners’ visitors has been positive;

‘We felt more comfortable than in the prison environment.’

‘Fantastic – It will help my son re-establish a relationship with his dad, three hours drive is not conducive to good quality time.’

‘Thank you, very grateful to have this here.’

‘These visits provide the ability to have more regular visits. They also save the family a lot of money.’

Feedback from prisoners shows they also appreciate the facility:

“Very good system, thanks for it all.”

“Keep it up, it’s a good idea.”

Lights, camera, action: using movies to improve literacy

Young prisoners at Christchurch Men's Prison Youth Unit are improving their reading and writing skills by 'read-watching' movies. The best teachers are always looking for new ways to engage their students and make learning effective and enjoyable – and nowhere is this approach more important than in the classroom of a young offenders unit.

Young offenders are likely to have low educational attainment and a history of failure in the classroom. To help tutors engage these students, Corrections is introducing a new programme that uses DVD movies such as The Freedom Writers and The Blind Side to support literacy.

The Audio-Visual Achievement in Literacy, Language and Learning (AVAILLL) programme works by getting students to ‘read-watch’ the movies – both watching the movie (in English) and reading English subtitles at the same time.

Students then complete a range of activities designed to help them with reading, comprehension and writing skills. The pictures/sound help low level readers to understand the story and keep them engaged in the activities.

Tutor Kathy Foster is highly supportive of the programme, which she implemented 18 months ago at the Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit.

“The young men in my unit have engaged to a higher degree than they do in the classroom-based work. I’ve seen definite improvement in their reading and writing skills. The ones who’ve done the programme generally use the library more afterwards, which is a sure sign they’re getting better at reading and developing an interest in learning,” she says.

She says one of the main benefits is that the programme is non-threatening; young offenders who turn off if given a book generally enjoy the privilege of watching a movie and so accept the work and exercises that go with it.

A typical comment from a young offender: “I thought it would suck to be honest, as I thought it was just another test, just another fail, but it helped as it was good to do something you enjoy and you can learn off something you enjoy. The movie made it more enjoyable and easy to work with.”

“I think my reading has improved a lot,” said another. “I can read faster now. I used to take ages….”

Senior Advisor (Education) Leigh Henderson, says the programme has been used in New Zealand schools since 2008 with good results.

“Research shows the AVAILLL programme has been especially successful for low progress students. We’re still evaluating its use with young offenders, but an initial evaluation from Christchurch Men’s Prison was promising enough that we’re rolling it out to our youth units at Rimutaka, Hawkes Bay and Waikeria Prisons,” he says.

Corrections has custody of around 400 prisoners aged between 15 and 19, though most of them are 17 or older. We are obliged to provide all prisoners under the age of 19 with a free education.

The majority of them use Correspondence School courses to work towards Unit Standards and National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and most get ten hours a week or more in the classroom with a tutor.

Volunteers bring uniqueness into prison

Volunteers (L-R) Sue Hamlett, Peter Gallagher and Margaret Nixon have been running Toastmaster clubs in prison since 2007.Nearly 2,500 people volunteer their time in varying roles in prisons. “The wonderful thing about volunteers is that they come into prison because they want to,” says National Adviser Volunteers Barbara Jennings. “They are not being paid and they are not under any family obligation.” Because of this selflessness they also bring a uniqueness.

Fifty-eight percent are faith-based volunteers who are managed by Chaplaincy Services and provide church services and provide for the spiritual needs of prisoners. The other 42 percent of volunteers do ‘all sorts,’ says Barbara. ‘All sorts’ can include Toastmasters, quilting, literacy, numeracy, yoga, chess clubs, Story Book Dads and more.

For those prisoners who have no personal visitors, an interaction with a volunteer may be the only contact they get with the outside community. And for some, it is the only time someone is visiting them with no ulterior motive.

“Volunteers are a link to the community and if a prisoner has built a relationship with a volunteer based on a particular interest, it makes it easier to link them to that activity in the community when they are released.”

Volunteers support the work of the Department. For example, Barbara says when offenders have course work for a particular programme volunteers will come in and help them with their homework.

"Margaret Nixon, Sue Hamlett, and Peter Gallagher are volunteers who run Toastmasters clubs for prisoners. They began at Rimutaka Prison in 2007 and transferred to Arohata Prison in 2011.

Sue expresses the opinion of them all when she says, “I get a wonderful feeling of inspiration listening to the prisoners speak. Many of them have had very few chances in life."

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is 16 – 22 June when volunteers around the country are recognised for the work they do in our communities.

The theme this year is ‘He tangata he tangata he tangata - It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.’ Volunteers at Corrections, who made over 19 thousand volunteer visits in 2012, will be guests of honour at special receptions and events around our sites during that week.

If you wish to volunteer at Corrections, visit and search on Volunteering.

Community Work leads to full time jobs in Taupo

Two offenders serving community sentences have impressed their employers so much they have been given full time jobs at Bike Taupo.

The offenders, who are now in their second year of service for the charitable and community-based organisation, have helped carve out around 200 km of track for cyclists, which is used by 60,000 people each year.

The work, which is hard and physical, involves duties such as digging and raking. The offenders have also achieved on-the-job qualifications, including modules in digging and the use of chainsaws.

Probation Officer Geoff Hayes says employment with Bike Taupo has assisted the offenders’ rehabilitation.

“These two have turned their lives around. For one of the guys, it’s a direction he wasn’t previously considering. Before, they were both unemployed and in trouble; now they’re both employed and out of trouble.”

Bruce Jaine, a contractor for Bike Taupo, credits the hard work of all the offenders who have been pitching in there for the last two years, but particularly the two who have been working full time.

“Without them, the progress we’ve made could never have been achieved. They’re good workers, and you can definitely see an improvement in their lifestyle and behaviour.”

The larger group of community-based offenders working with Bike Taupo has  gained the nickname ‘The Beagle Boys’, a reference to a bumbling gang of criminals from Walt Disney’s Scrooge McDuck comics. They have had a track named after them to acknowledge their hard work.

Community benefots from prison-grown food

Activity Officer Mark Walthall (left) and Offender Employment Instructor Gerry Hindriksen (right) give prisoner-grown veges to a Women's Refuge representative. An expanded garden at Northern Region Corrections Facility has produced a bumper crop for locals in need.

The prison-grown veges were given to groups such as Kaikohe Women’s Refuge and the Salvation Army. One recipient, a father of three small children, simply said “Sweet, we’re going home to have a boil up!”.

The garden, which was expanded in January this year, has also created more employment opportunities at the prison. Offenders have contributed to all aspects of planning and construction of the garden, learning practical skills such as concrete laying, building and planting.

The project will develop in coming years. Twenty-seven new planter boxes and around 30 additional beds will soon mean more hungry mouths in the community can enjoy healthy prison-grown food.

Minister's column

Minister of Corrections Hon Anne Tolley (right) and her Private Secretary Russell Underwood (centre) with Whanganui Prison's Horticulture Activity Manager Michael Queree (left) in the prison nursery. It would be easy to pay lip-service to rehabilitating offenders, while making very little progress.

The National-led Government is matching our ambitious targets around reducing re-offending with the necessary resourcing and planning to ensure that we reach our goals.

Corrections has already delivered an 8.9 percent reduction in re-offending, meaning 1,643 fewer repeat offenders and over 6,500 fewer victims of crime each year. And we are determined to do much more.

Budget 2012 earmarked $65 million in reprioritised funding which is delivering huge increases in drug and alcohol programmes and education and skills training.
I’m delighted to say that Budget 2013 also contains funding for initiatives to help us reach our target of a 25 percent reduction in re-offending by 2017, while concentrating on the core business of keeping our communities safe.

Post-release service

$10 million is being made available from the Justice Sector Fund over two years to establish a new post-release service for offenders, at a time when they are at a high risk of returning to crime.

We know that many prisoners struggle to access social services and support agencies on release, and if support isn’t available to help them readjust and reintegrate into the community, they can often turn back to crime.

The new service funded in Budget 2013 will help offenders complete basic reintegration tasks on release, quickly connect them with relevant agencies, and ensure they attend appointments, such as with probation. Importantly, it will also support them with finding employment and accommodation.

If we can stop these offenders returning to crime, we can make sure there are fewer victims of crime.

The service will be targeted at prisoners serving a sentence of less than two years – a third of whom are under 25 years old.

Electronically monitored bail

Budget 2013 also provides $500,000 in operating funding from the Justice Sector Fund to enable Corrections to redesign the electronically monitored bail service. This will ensure it is financially viable and has potential for expansion as it transitions from Police.

It makes sense for Corrections to take over this service, as monitoring is part of its core operations. Police will continue to respond to any non-compliance and make any necessary arrests, while the transfer of monitoring to Corrections will allow it to consider using GPS technology for EM Bail in the future.

These initiatives show we are completely focused on public safety and on reducing re-offending.  am confident we will reach our goal of 18,500 fewer victims of crime every year from 2017.

Hon Anne Tolley
Minister of Corrections

Hawera Healthy Heroes

Hawera community work offenders learn how to make a healthy pot of pumpkin and carrot soup from nutritionist Helen Curtin (in red apron).With the help of The Salvation Army and Nutritional Therapist Helen Curtin, Hawera community work offenders are being turned into ‘healthy heroes’.

The aptly named programme, as part of Basic Work and Living Skills, began in March and aims to teach participants how to cook healthy meals on a budget using fresh ingredients.

Offenders with children are given priority to attend the 12-hour course (run in three-hour sessions). They must also have Court approval to convert some of their community work hours to approved training.

The first class in March focused on one-pot dinners. The participants made two types of soup; pumpkin and carrot, and leek and potato, as well as a home-made tomato sauce that they used to make pizzas with tortilla bases.

After sampling their work, the soups were packaged up for the Salvation Army’s food bank while the participants took away the recipe and the experience of making soup from scratch.

Fresh vegetables, potatoes and herbs are being sourced from the Hawera community garden which community work offenders maintain. The Salvation Army has provided the venue, a large well-resourced kitchen, and successfully applied for funding for the project from their Share and Care Fund. Local supermarkets have donated ingredients and tutor Helen Curtin who has also worked as a chef in London, is volunteering her time and expertise.

Probation Officer Greta Cleary says the feedback from volunteers and offenders has been very positive.

“The offenders seemed to really enjoy doing something different and the talk afterwards indicated they had got a lot out of it, which, of course, they can take home and share.”