Corrections Works June 2014

From our Chief Executive

Chief Executive Ray Smith. Towards the end of May I had the pleasure of being at two very different ceremonies that nicely book-end the journey Corrections has taken over the years, and highlight both our rich history and what more we can achieve in years to come.

One was the opening of our new Heritage Centre. The centre tells the story of Corrections in New Zealand, and features a number of fascinating displays. You can find out more about the centre on the back page.

The other event was the opening of the new Westport Community Corrections site. This site has been upgraded as part of a nationwide programme to improve safety, security and offender-facing facilities at our community-based premises.

As well as bringing local staff together in one site, the refurbishments provide safe and secure meeting rooms, areas from which to run rehabilitation programmes and dedicated space for community work.

As you will read in this edition of Corrections Works, our probation staff have been doing an excellent job helping offenders to gain essential work and living skills that can help them in everyday life or with getting a job.

Along with community work supervisors, they’ve also started to use an approach similar to Motivational Interviewing techniques when working with offenders. This approach helps offenders look at their life, with the hope that they’ll be ready to begin the process of changing it for the better.

If you look at the timeline on the wall in the Heritage Centre, you’ll see that full-time probation officers weren’t employed in New Zealand until 1954 – even then there were only six of them. Sixty years on, it shows how far we’ve come to be upgrading these new Community Corrections sites that will support the essential work our staff do with the 41,000 community-based offenders in New Zealand.

Let us know if you have any ideas about stories that you’d like to see in upcoming issues. You can email  

Ray Smith
Chief Executive

Learning their way out of crime

Probation Officer Tolai Pei from Otara Community Corrections interviews an offender; if she has a skills gap that is contributing to her offending, he may send her on a course to learn the skills she needs.Many offenders simply do not have essential life skills and this leads to their offending. One of the ways Corrections is helping community-based offenders to stay out of trouble is by ensuring that more of them do Work and Living Skills (WLS) training as part of their sentence.

Across the country, staff like Probation Officer Tolai Pei from Otara Community Corrections are identifying if offenders, especially those serving a Community Work sentence, have any specific skills needs.

“For example, I recently sent a young offender on a course to learn skills to increase job opportunities. He had no CV and had never been to a job interview, but he was motivated to work. I put him on a course to help him create a CV, learn how to dress and talk appropriately at a job interview, and other skills. He’s motivated to work, so I think this will really help him,” says Tolai.

Other training options include literacy, numeracy, tikanga Mâori programmes, parenting, budgeting, cooking skills, and alcohol, drug or gambling education.

Chief Probation Officer Darius Fagan says Corrections has placed new emphasis on this kind of practical training because it’s a good way to introduce offenders to a new skill or service they otherwise may not receive.

“Community Work has traditionally been about offenders giving something back to the community, but now we’re maximising rehabilitative opportunities as well. “Some sites offer a very wide range of WLS activities. The potential of what can be offered is unlimited and we have a seen a lot of creative solutions to local issues,” says Darius.

A good example of this flexible approach is on the East Coast where Napier Service Manager Chris Yarwood says fishing for a meal for the whanau is very popular. “So we offer a WLS course in which fisheries officers teach fishing regulations. Offenders learn the rules so they can avoid further sentences for being caught with over-quota or under-size catches,” says Chris.

Community Work Supervisor Bruce Cato teaches Work and Living Skills to offenders in Napier; practical skills like these can encourage offenders to do further education and find a job.WLS training can be delivered by Corrections staff or community agencies. For example, at the Napier Service Centre, many of the WLS courses are run in-house because they have staff like Community Work Supervisor Bruce Cato who are former tradesmen and can teach beginner carpentry or plumbing.

At the end of March 2014, probation staff had sent 2,816 offenders to WLS training since 1 July 2013. So we’ve made a good start on reaching our target of 10,000 offenders a year on WLS training by 2017.

Reaching this target has been supported by an amendment to legislation. The Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Act 2013 now allows probation officers themselves to refer offenders for WLS once they have been sentenced. Prior to this, the WLS training had to be noted on the sentence order by the sentencing judge.

Also making the challenge that little bit easier to achieve is one-off funding of $500,000 across the four regions. The funding, for the 2013/2014 financial year, has been made available exclusively to bolster WLS activity and to help probation staff access training providers or get the resources they need to facilitate WLS training.


Work and Living Skills in context

Corrections manages around 41,000 community-based offenders a year, with sentences ranging from Community Work to Intensive Supervision. As well as an emphasis on getting more offenders learning Work and Living Skills, since June 2012, probation staff have started helping offenders in other new ways, by using relapse prevention techniques and an approach similar to Motivational Interviewing (see ‘Motivating change’ story overleaf).

Last year we delivered ‘Community Work Skills’ training to all Community Work staff. The aim of this training was to ensure that every interaction between the staff member and the offender is a positive one that enhances the offender’s rehabilitation and motivation to change. This way of working will encourage offenders to comply with their sentences and stay on the pathway to change.

Our goal with all these new ways of working is to help offenders make positive changes, maintain changes once they’ve made them, and give them the skills to live a better life.

Motivating change 

Senior Psychologist Deborah Bremner works with prisoners at Christchurch Men's Prison Special Treatment Unit. Motivational Interviewing is one of the many techniques she uses to encourage offenders to change.Offenders who are reluctant to change – despite the difficulties their offending causes them and those around them – are a daily challenge faced by Corrections staff.

Some offenders don’t believe change is possible, they may have little insight into their choices, or change could just seem too hard to achieve. Some even claim to enjoy a criminal lifestyle.

Since 2006, Corrections’ psychologists and programme facilitators have been running Short Motivational Programmes (five sessions, each an hour long, one-to-one) to encourage offenders to think about what they really want out of life – and, probably, to do further rehabilitation programmes. However, we are increasingly training other frontline staff such as probation officers and community work supervisors to use an approach similar to Motivational Interviewing.

Its founders, Doctors William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, define Motivational Interviewing as ‘a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change’.

In other words, it’s a special way of talking with a person in a non-confrontational way, getting them to come up with their own ideas about changing and how to achieve what they really want out of life.

Sound simple? It’s not, says Senior Programmes Adviser Linn Latta. Linn is experienced in Motivational Interviewing and has worked in Corrections youth units and at Te Whare Manaakitanga (previously known as the Violence Prevention Unit).

“Motivational Interviewing is a very specific skill. It takes a lot of training, practice and supervision to get it right, but the evidence suggests it can increase people’s motivation to change if used in the right way and that’s why we’re interested in it as one more tool for staff to use with offenders.

“It’s really important that our staff, be they psychologists, probation officers, programme facilitators or case managers, establish a good rapport with the offender. Without it, it’s harder to get motivation from them,” she says.

Strategies include paraphrasing to put the information in another light, using open questions that invite the offender to say more, reflective listening to check for understanding, and summarising to clarify what has been discussed.

“Offenders who complete treatment programmes are less likely to re-offend. However, to get the most out of any programme, offenders need motivation to change, and they need to recognise their offending is a problem,” says Senior Psychologist Deborah Bremner.

“Motivational Interviewing is a useful tool to help an offender recognise the problems surrounding their behaviour in a way that is meaningful for them.”

Principles include:
• collaboration between the practitioner and the offender with a focus on the offender’s point of the view
• evoking the offender’s own ideas about change, rather than the practitioner imposing their opinions
• practising compassion and empathy, demonstrating that the practitioner understands the offender’s experiences and values without judging
• avoiding confrontation or an argument with the offender (which may entrench resistance to change)
• encouraging the offender’s belief that change is possible and their active role in that process.

Motivational Interviewing in practice

Statement by offender:

• “I love drinking, but something has got to give. I just can’t go on like this anymore.”

Responses by a practitioner using Motivational Interviewing could be;
• “So, your love of drinking has come at a cost?”
• “On the one hand, you love drinking, but on the other you can see the risks if it continues.”
• “You’re a bit worried about the future if you keep drinking.”
• “What’s likely to happen to you if you continue drinking?”
• “What do your friends say about your behaviour?”

Better engagement with Pasifika

Photo courtesy of Teinesavaii.  
From April, probation officers have started using a new engagement model to help them work more effectively with Pasifika offenders, their families and communities.

The Fauina o le Fale Engagement Model uses the metaphor of the building of a fale (house) as its basis, and draws upon traditional Pasifika cultural concepts (from a Samoan perspective) such as tofa mamao (wisdom of families and communities), va fealoaloa’i (respected space – connections and relationships) and maopoopo (unity).

Key to the approach is seeking aiga (family) and community involvement wherever possible to support the offender.

Senior Advisor Vinnie Campbell, who managed the development process, says robust consultation was key to getting the approach right.

“The development team took advice from respected Pasifika community leaders, the Pacific Research Group at Massey University, the Spring Hill Corrections Facility Pacific Focus Unit Reference Group, and our own experienced Pacific regional advisors and key Pacific Staff Network members.

“We then trialled the approach successfully last year at Mangere Service Centre in Auckland and at the Spring Hill Corrections Facility Pacific Focus Unit. The model has had a lot of support from the groups we consulted with, and our regional advisors are very enthusiastic about it,” he says.

As well as providing an overall approach for working effectively with Pasifika offenders, the model drills down to practical advice such as:
• As a sign of respect, ensure you’re seated when addressing the offender and aiga
• When meeting aiga, always acknowledge key people in the room such as the head of the family or the church minister
• Offer the opportunity for the offender and aiga to open and close meetings with a prayer.

Frontline staff, including probation officers, will be supported to use the model through an eight-hour training session delivered by practice leaders. Probation officers can also get help from colleagues in the Corrections Pacific Staff Networks.

All probation officers in the country should have received the training by the end of September this year. The model is drawn from existing Pasefika engagement, practice and research models, including the Fono Fale (Samoan), Kakala (Tongan), Seitapu (Samoan), Tivaevae (Cook Island), Te Vaka Atafaga (Tokelau), and So’otaga (Samoan) models. These have been used primarily in the health and education sectors.

Pasifika offenders remain over-represented, both in prison (10.4 percent of prisoners are Pasifika) and in the numbers of offenders serving community-based sentences and orders (10.2 percent). Prisoners may be able to stay in the Pacific Focus Unit, which provides intensive rehabilitative interventions in a therapeutic environment that supports Pacific values and beliefs.


Helping rebuild Canterbury

Prisoners at work refurbishing a house in one of the two Rolleston Prison Construction Yards; they're supervised and trained by our skilled employment instructors, so as well as contributing to the rebuild, they're learning new skills that will help them find work on release. 

Following the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes, Corrections has made an on-going contribution to the recovery and rebuild.

By 31 March 2014, offenders in prison and in the community had contributed over 192,000 hours to earthquake recovery work.

Our flagship project for the Corrections Rebuild Canterbury Project is the Rolleston Prison Construction Yards. Houses owned by Housing New Zealand and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) are transported from the Residential Red Zone to the two yards where they are refurbished for social housing by prisoners and community offenders. The prisoner yard has space for 30 houses at any one time.

The other yard has space for 20 houses and is used by Community Work into Employment, a partnership programme between Work and Income and Corrections. Offenders in the programme are able to fulfil both their community work hours and job-seeking requirements whilst gaining valuable skills to gain sustainable employment.

The yards are capable of employing 60 prisoners and 30 offenders every day. Our offender employment instructors teach the offenders a range of trade skills including painting, plastering, carpentry, and timber joinery – all of which are skills that are in short supply in the local labour market.

At the same time, the instructors enable offenders to earn credits under the National Qualification Framework. Offenders learn practical skills, work towards a qualification; and are getting the same high quality training and on-site work experience as in a normal construction yard.

The first four houses in the yards have been completed and were moved back to the community in May this year.

The development of the Rolleston Construction Yards is a cross-agency and cross-community partnership. In addition to our project partner, Housing New Zealand (HNZC), there are many other organisations whose involvement has made this project possible.

These include the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), CERA, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Selwyn District and Christchurch City Councils.
International research shows that sustainable post-release employment acts as a protective factor against re-offending.

It's not just about refurbishment; prisoners in Christchurch are also growing plants for city landscaping and vegetables for charities to distribute. Employment provides ex-prisoners with purpose, pro-social role models and environments and an ability to care for themselves and their families financially. This directly contributes to Corrections’ goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017.

At a glance: The Corrections Rebuild Canterbury project

Offenders on community work sentences help the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) by mismantling garages in the Residential Red Zone (the area where liquefaction has occurred and it has been deemed uneconomic to rebuild). 

In the fifteen months between January 2013 and March 2014:
192,184 hours of prisoner/offender labour have gone into the rebuild of Canterbury
60 offenders in prison are working at the Rolleston Construction Yards refurbishing houses
536 prisoners have gained trade skills eg wood manufacturing, food safety, forklift operation
145 employers in the Canterbury District contributed to making our community safer by giving offenders a second chance
180 offenders have gained employment including 36 who were on Release to Work and maintained employment after their release from prison
1,113 offenders are now on a pathway to employment
348 offenders in prison and the community are engaged in Job Clubs to seek sustainable employment.

Kuia retires after 30 years walking prison corridors

Thanks aunty: Mrs May Mackay, known as Whaea May, has retired from volunteering after 30 years.She has walked the corridors of some of the country’s most well-known prisons, but at 93, Kuia May Mackey chose Auckland Prison at Paremoremo for her last round.

Mrs Mackey, known as ‘Aunty May’ or ‘Whaea May’ is a former prison chaplain who began volunteering at Mt Eden Prison with her late husband in the early 1980s, to offer support to Maori prisoners.

Whaea May became involved with visits to other facilities through the Kaiwhakamana programme. The role of Kaiwhakamana in prison is a voluntary support role giving Kaumatua (elders) greater access, and support, to Maori prisoners. This may include informing prisoners and whânau about whakapapa and tikanga, helping prisoners to establish and maintain contact with whânau and helping prisoners return to the community with the support of their whanau.

Kaiwhakamana are approved visitors and have access to any prison in the country during normal visiting hours. They may also visit at any reasonable time outside these hours by arrangement with prison management, for example during tangihana (bereavements).

For the last 20 years, Whaea May has made weekly visits to offenders at Auckland Prison and Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.

While she has worked with some of the country’s most high profile prisoners, and in units including maximum security, Whaea May has a simple philosophy as she reflects on the past 30 years.

“I believe the input I make in providing an ear for them, and not judging them, and encouraging them that there can be a better future, can make a difference,” she says. “They are special to me and this is why I had to do a little swansong and visit everyone for the last time. My legs are getting tired!”

TVNZ were invited to Whaea May’s farewell morning tea at Auckland Prison on 1 May to profile her as one of their ‘Good Sorts’.

From our Minister

Hon Anne TolleyCorrections can’t afford to stand still.

The Department must always be looking at ways to improve staff safety and prison security – as well as increasing rehabilitation opportunities to support our target of reducing re-offending.

We want the best, most secure surroundings for staff to be able to deliver great results in a safe environment.

We also need to have buildings, which allow staff to deliver the rehabilitation programmes which are a vital part of what we do. That’s why the current upgrades to the prison estate are so important, and represent a great investment in the future.

Corrections Minister Hon Anne Tolley, on a recent visit to Whanganui Prison, with Prison Manager Reti Pearse.Major infrastructure work costing a total of $87 million is taking place at six facilities across the country, at Invercargill, Whanganui, Tongariro, Waikeria, Rolleston and Hawkes Bay Prisons.

A whole range of important building work is being carried out, and it’s been a real delight for me to go along to these facilities to celebrate the completion of work, or turn the sod to officially mark the start of projects.

It includes new AVL links, contraband search facilities, trades training buildings, new perimeter fences, staff buildings, construction yards and seismic strengthening.

Overall it’s a massive project. But our prisons must be fit for purpose. Firstly, they must be secure. They must also allow our staff to do their job to the best of their ability while reducing the risk, as much as possible, of any injuries. And they need to provide the facilities that allow us to deliver the rehab that is required to support prisoners in turning their lives around. And these aren’t the only investments we are making.

The maximum security wing at Auckland Prison is to be completely rebuilt, at a cost of over $200 million, to provide a secure and modern facility which will contain a mental health unit and deliver improved rehabilitation opportunities.

Again, staff safety will be at the heart of the development.The Government is serious about making communities even safer. All of the prison redevelopment work will contribute to that. And if we need to make further improvements, then we won’t hesitate.

Hon Anne Tolley

Regional highlights

Read what's been happening around the regions - Regional highlights



CORRECTIONS JOURNAL – invitation to contributors

Are you a frontline staff member, practitioner, researcher or academic in the Justice arena?

Have you completed an interesting project or piece of research that you would like to share with a wider audience?

Practice: The New Zealand Corrections Journal would like to hear from you – whether you’re an experienced writer, or if this would be your first published piece.

The journal publishes in-depth, academic and practice-focused articles. Corrections recommends it for all those working professionally with offenders, especially in New Zealand.

Before you consider contributing, please read the information for contributors which appears at the back of previously published issues. We also suggest you read the back issues to see what we include.

You can download PDFs of back issues from:

Once you’ve checked the back issues, please email with a brief summary of your proposed article and a member of the Editorial Board will contact you to discuss your idea.

The ol’ ball and chain

The ball and chain was still in use in New Zealand until the mid 20th century. Janis Joplin sang about it and it’s become an off-colour joke to describe a controlling wife, but the real ball and chain was nothing to sing or laugh about.

An original ball and chain (on loan from Southland Museum) is just one of the exhibits on show in the new Corrections Heritage Centre, which was officially opened by Corrections Minister Hon Anne Tolley on May 28 at National Office in Wellington.

The Heritage Centre is an interactive space for visitors to learn more about the history of Corrections in New Zealand.

Exhibits in the Heritage Centre. Other features include a replica cell from the old New Plymouth Prison, examples of contraband, an early admissions register from Invercargill Gaol (c1869) and a special exhibit on Corrections’ involvement in the war effort to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One.

Historian Phil Lister lifts a 16kg weight in the Heritage Centre. The weight is the same as the original ball and chain on view. Visitors are encouraged to try lifting the weight to see how it would have felt.Corrections Historian Phil Lister (who is also in charge of national prisoner movements) explains that the first documented use of a ball and chain was in the 17th century, and it remained in use for the next 300 years. In New Zealand, it was still in use as late as the mid 20th century.

“The ball and chain was mainly used for high risk prisoners carrying out hard labour outside the prison,” says Phil.

“Prisoners were often chained up in iron fetters at night so they couldn’t escape from their cell, and some high-risk prisoners would also have a ball and chain attached to their ankles during the day. While the ball and chain allowed a prisoner to work and move, it would have been hard going as they had to carry the ball around wherever they went.”

The ball and chain was usually an old cannon ball with a chain that attached to a prisoner’s leg. The balls came in three different weights. The more risk a prisoner posed – the heavier the ball. The one on display in the Heritage Centre weighs in at a hefty 16.1 kilograms – that’s about the weight of a five year old child!

Visiting the Heritage Centre

If you are visiting Corrections National Office, take some time to look around the Heritage Centre. It is next to Reception on the ground floor of Mayfair House, 44-52 The Terrace, Wellington.

Open 7.30am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.