Corrections Works September 2014
From our Chief Executive
Welcome to this edition of Corrections Works.
Whether you are one of our regular readers, or this is the first time you’ve picked up a copy of Corrections Works, I’m sure you will find a lot to interest you this month. You may even be surprised at the breadth of work carried out by the Department of Corrections. Because there really is so much more to our organisation, and once you get beyond the traditional images of high concrete fences and razor wire, you begin to see a genuine commitment to rehabilitation and improving people’s lives.
This month we pay tribute to the incredible people who volunteer week in and week out at Corrections, sharing their passion and talent with those in prison. Over 2,000 people volunteer in prisons. They can be artists, quilters, actors, teachers, cultural leaders, yoga instructors, librarians, kaiwhakairo (master carvers). They come from all walks of life, some have been through the corrections system themselves, others have never been to a prison until starting as a volunteer, but all are incredibly generous people prepared to spend their spare time helping others gain new skills and a chance at turning their lives around.
At Corrections, our priority is to focus on the offender and how we can break the cycle of their offending. But in doing this, we should never lose sight of those who are most affected, the victims of their crimes. Recent changes to the Victims’ Rights Act will ensure people on the Victim Notification Register receive advance information about possible changes to an offender’s sentence.
We’re also working with the family members of offenders, who can also be deeply affected when a loved one is convicted of a crime. Children, in particular, can suffer when mum or dad goes to prison. We’re working with Pillars to help children stay in touch with their parent in prison and make the experience of visiting a prison less daunting.
Let us know if you have any ideas about stories that you’d like to see in upcoming issues. You can email email@example.com.
Keeping our staff safe
Our Staff Safety Plan is working. In the year before the plan started there were 13 serious assaults* on staff by prisoners; this has now gone down to four (last financial year). Serious prisoner on prisoner assaults are down too – from 55, to 42.
Of course, even one assault is one too many, and as we head into Year Two of the Staff Safety Plan we’re continuing our commitment to a zero tolerance approach to violence, and better ways of working that put staff safety first.
For Year Two, all prisons and Community Corrections sites have developed their own safety plans with initiatives that are important and meaningful to them.
Key themes across the country include encouraging personal accountability, improving emergency responsiveness, and getting the basics right.
At Auckland Prison, ‘getting the basics right’ includes an emphasis on using the ‘Right Track’ active management approach with prisoners. Custodial staff have been using this approach since early 2013; put simply, it means staff use all interactions with prisoners to support them to participate in their rehabilitation plans.
Senior Corrections Officer Amanda Aualiitia works in Auckland Prison’s East Division, which houses around 48 maximum to medium security prisoners. She uses Right Track approaches every day, and agrees that if used properly they help staff stay safe as well as contributing to reducing re-offending.
“Right Track helps all officers maintain a positive and professional approach, while being firm and taking no nonsense. It also helps us ensure prisoners are busy, and busy prisoners are less likely to cause trouble.”
As well as daily update meetings to discuss prisoner management, Amanda attends a formal Right Track meeting once a week. It was at one of these meetings that the idea arose to introduce a system of progression steps for offenders, with each step having more benefits. If an offender behaves well, and engages in his rehabilitation plan and educational opportunities, he can progress, for example, from cleaning duties, to working in the kitchen.
“We’ve had many success stories by employing this focus. One case was an offender who did nothing but watch TV. Through positive, constant interaction with him, we discovered that he dreamed of starting his own takeaway bar, but hadn’t pursued this due to his lack of knowledge and experience. Working with his case officer, we arranged for him to take a correspondence course on business basics. We also encouraged him to behave well so he could work in the kitchen and gain valuable experience. This saw a positive change in attitude from him as he became focused on the future.
“Because the rewards are tangible and achievable, we see improvements in attitude with most prisoners. They behave better, making life safer for staff, and they also get on with their rehabilitation,” says Amanda.
* A serious assault is an act of physical violence that involves:
sexual assault of any kind
bodily harm requiring intervention by medical staff followed by overnight hospitalisation
bodily harm requiring extended periods of on-going medical intervention.
NEW IN SAFETY
Smart phones for safety
Community-based staff (eg probation officers) in the lower North Island are trialling smart phones that include a safety app. The app makes it easier for them to call for help and send information about their location to the office in an emergency.
Slash proof gloves
Custodial staff search for contraband in all kinds of hiding places – including drains, mattresses and toilets. We’re trialling slash proof gloves that safeguard officers against needle sticks and cuts. The new gloves are made of material that protects the hands while still allowing officers to feel for contraband.
We’re trialling a Physical Readiness Assessment for custodial staff, which we plan to introduce from 1 July 2015. The idea came from staff input to the Expert Panel on Staff Safety, which said that staff need to be able to rely on their colleagues to be fit enough to help out, especially in an emergency. The assessment isn’t a generic fitness test, but reflects the true requirements of the job.
Upgraded sites safer, better for rehabilitation
Corrections has started a five-year programme to improve safety, security and facilities at Community Corrections sites across the country – and it is already making a difference.
These sites are where Corrections staff manage community-based offenders and their sentences. This includes providing facilities and services for those sentenced to community work, and facilities for running rehabilitation programmes. Offenders also visit their local Community Corrections site regularly, to meet with their probation officer.
Around 150 sites are located throughout New Zealand, and 70 percent of these are included in the upgrade programme.
An important focus is to provide improved facilities that enable staff to give offenders the best possible support to live crime-free lives. Safety and security will be improved through the installation of new reception counters, camera surveillance, safer interview rooms and better office layout.
Currently, some services are delivered from different sites in the same community. The intent is to bring Community Corrections services under one roof where possible. This will mean the relocation of some sites into larger premises, to bring staff and services together, leading to a more integrated service delivery to community-based offenders.
Kelly Hill is the Service Manager of a recently refurbished site in Westport. “For the first time, we are able to offer rehabilitation programmes to community-based offenders in Westport because the new building has the space available,” she says.
Other upgrades are getting underway across the country, including Upper Hutt, Whanganui, Taupo, Te Awamutu, Rotorua, Kawerau and Auckland.
Auckland South Corrections Facility update
The construction of the new men’s prison in South Auckland is progressing well and is on track to be completed in February 2015. The first prisoners arrive in May 2015 and prisoner numbers will gradually build up until the prison reaches full capacity in August 2015.
SecureFuture is the consortium that was selected by the Department to design, build, maintain, finance and operate Auckland South Corrections Facility / Kohuora. The consortium partner responsible for operating the prison for the next 25 years is Serco.
Construction of the prison began in September 2012. The scale of construction is huge – in total there will be 29 buildings on the 17 hectare site including residential, health, training and education, visitor centre, cultural buildings and industry buildings. There are three double storey x-shaped housing blocks accommodating prisoners with higher security ratings and ten residence units for prisoners with lower security ratings.
The prison will accommodate a maximum of 960 prisoners with approximately 1,500 prisoners moving through the facility each year. It provides additional capacity in Auckland where it is needed. At present, some prisoners from the Auckland area have to be housed in facilities outside the area.
Enabling prisoners to be held close to their home area will help prisoners maintain relationships with family and wh?nau and key support people. This support network will help them reintegrate back into their community upon release which reduces their likelihood of re-offending.
Finding gainful employment is another important factor in reducing re-offending. Serco wants prisoners to leave with skills and work experience that will lead to permanent employment. To this end, Serco is engaging with business partners to co-locate inside the facility to offer prisoners meaningful work experience.
Supporting the children of offenders
Children of offenders are often vulnerable, and our staff are in a unique position to help protect them. Probation officers visit offenders at home and may see first-hand what life is like for the kids.
There are also around 23,000 children in New Zealand with a parent or family member in prison. Many of these children visit our prisons on a regular basis, and come into contact with custodial staff.
In early 2013, we started introducing a series of initiatives to benefit these children and make visiting someone in prison more child-friendly. The Child Protection Protocol, which we developed in partnership with Child Matters (child protection education agency), is a key part of this.
The protocol sets out how we will keep children safe. It helps staff to identify the signs of abuse and neglect, and outlines what to do if they suspect something. Under this protocol we’ve trained 70 ‘child protection champions’, staff who can share their knowledge and support their colleagues where concerns are raised. Staff can access a Child, Youth and Family (CYF) advice line (0508 CYF LINK) to seek advice or let CYF know if they have concerns for a child.
WE'RE WORKING TO IMPROVE THINGS IN FOUR MAIN AREAS:
Improving visiting environments in prisons – we now provide books and toys in many low security waiting and visiting rooms, and allow toilet access and breast-feeding during prison visits. Some prisons have colourful child-friendly murals in visits areas. Research shows the children of prisoners are up to seven times more likely than other children to end up in prison themselves. However, being able to engage with parents in prison helps reduce the chances of the child offending later in life. The pro-social links can also help the prisoners’ rehabilitation.
Supporting our staff – for example, creating the child protection champion role and access to the 0508 CYF LINK advice line (see above).
Helping our partner agencies gain access – we give information to families about other agencies and services that could help them, such as healthcare information.
Improving access to prison visits – we always try to place prisoners near their families, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. We’re trialling a number of initiatives to make visiting easier, from extending visiting hours, to using audio-visual links so family members can have a ‘virtual visit’ from one of our Community Corrections sites. This can be especially useful if the family can’t travel to the prison.
Supporting Children of Prisoners Week: 20 – 27 September 2014:
- This year we are supporting and endorsing printed brochures from PILLARS that contain useful information for families of offenders – these will be available in our Community Corrections sites and prisons
- Prison sites around the country are planning activities such as staff donating toys for visits rooms, and making art/craft activities and healthy snacks available for children.
Victim information law change
Parliament recently made changes to the Victims’ Rights Act. The changes require Corrections to inform victims on the Victim Notification Register (VNR) of more events than previously, particularly for victims of offenders who are serving sentences of up to two years. These changes come into effect on 6 December 2014.
The changes require Corrections to inform victims if:
- an offender or their probation officer applies to have a sentence of home detention cancelled and substituted with another sentence – Corrections will also notify the victim of the outcome of the application
- an offender applies to cancel their prison sentence and substitute it with a home detention sentence – we will also notify the victim of the outcome of the application
- an offender’s sentence is due to end.
In addition, victims will:
- automatically receive offender information before an offender’s parole hearing if they have requested it previously
- be advised if their updated contact details have been provided to another organisation (ie Police or Ministry
“Providing this kind of information better informs victims of what’s going on with the offender they are registered against,” says Corrections Victim Information Manager Christine Smith.
Only victims who are on the VNR are sent information by the Department.
‘Anna’s* story’ aims to give readers an idea of the kind of information a VNR victim might receive. It is not a complete list of all notifications received by an actual victim.
Anna’s now ex-partner, Darren, assaulted and kidnapped her because she wanted to leave him. He also assaulted their eight year old son. The police gave her a form to apply to go on the Victim Notification Register (VNR), which she completed (she can opt out at any time).
Anna’s first contact with Corrections is when our Victim Information Manager, Christine Smith, sends her a letter to confirm she’s on the VNR and that her ex-partner has been remanded in custody. The letter also tells Anna what information she can expect to receive in the future and how to get help from Victim Support.
Darren is sentenced to six years in prison (a court victim adviser tells Anna this).
Anna may not hear from us for some time; Darren is in prison and there is nothing for us to tell her.
About three months before Darren’s first Parole Board hearing, Anna gets a letter from the Parole Board informing her of the upcoming hearing and her right to make a submission to the Board. Anna can request ‘offender information’ from Corrections to help her with her submission (eg the offender’s security classification and any programmes he is attending). Anna only has to request offender information once; from now on she’ll receive it automatically before all future parole hearings.
Anna can make either a written or oral submission, or both, to the Board. On this occasion she chooses to make only a written submission.
The Board declines to release Darren at this time. Anna is advised of this and sent a copy of the Board’s written reasons.
Darren may be allowed out of prison on temporary release. Anna will be informed of this in writing. She will be told the date and the general area of the temporary release. He may also be allowed out on Release to Work. Again, Anna will be informed of this in writing. He will only be allowed to travel directly to and from his place of work.
Anna decides to move across town so she doesn’t keep bumping into her ex-partner’s family who blame her for what happened. She tells Christine her new contact details.
Anna receives a letter saying Darren is due for another Parole Board hearing. She also automatically receives ‘offender information’.
Anna receives a letter saying this time the Parole Board has decided to allow her ex out on parole. She will also receive a copy of the Board’s decision and the written reasons. Included will be the conditions that Darren is required to abide by, and how long these conditions are to remain in force. If he breaches any of his parole conditions, he could be recalled to prison. Offenders can only be recalled if they are released before their statutory release date.
Darren does breach a condition and the Parole Board makes an interim recall order. He is returned immediately to prison – Anna receives notification of this fact. He’s held in custody for a while, but the recall isn’t upheld and he’s released again – she receives another letter telling her this.
He applies to have a condition (a curfew) removed from his sentence so he can accept a job requiring shift work. Anna is notified if there is a variation to his conditions.
The offender’s conditions are due to end – his sentence is nearly over. Anna is notified of this fact, and then her VNR record becomes inactive.
Anna can ask at any time to be taken off the VNR. She can also nominate a representative to receive all the correspondence on her behalf from both Corrections and the Board.
*Not her real name.
We’d give all our 2,000+ volunteers an award if we could, but every year a few really stand out. This year, for Volunteer Awareness Week in June, Corrections recognised four volunteers who make a great contribution towards reducing re-offending and/or supporting strong positive community and iwi connections:
Lei Graham not only helps prisoners to improve their literacy, but also arranges for dictionaries to be donated to them. Lei started as a volunteer literacy tutor at Whanganui Prison in late 2011. She works alongside contracted tutors, helping prisoners with low literacy and numeracy skills who can’t cope in a large classroom. Working with small groups, she makes it a positive experience so they come back the next time with their homework complete. They gain the confidence to move into a classroom environment and carry on with their learning. Lei is also a member of Rotary and started a project for dictionaries to be donated to prisoners.
Cyril Gilroy helps Mâori prisoners with their cultural needs. Cyril, a member of Te Runanga O Waihopai, is Kaiwhakamana at Invercargill Prison (kaiwhakamana are kaumatua who have access to prisons to promote the well-being of Mâori prisoners). Cyril has been involved with the tikanga programme at Invercargill Prison and other prisons since the early 1990s. He also liaises with and supports offenders’ whânau in the community. When talking to prisoners, he aims to get them to change their attitudes and learn about Mâori ways of thinking. So, why the long-term interest in helping offenders? “I was one of those guys, back in the 1960s,” Cyril says. Cyril also volunteers for the Community Law Centre, Police, Plunket, and family violence services.
Anne Brown, a former teacher, helps prisoners improve both their literacy and their parenting skills. Anne volunteers for the Howard League for Penal Reform and helped set up a literacy programme at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison which offers one-on-one tutoring. A key part of the programme is for the prisoners to read a storybook which is recorded on to a CD to give to their children at home. Anne delivered the first 12-week programme to one prisoner in early 2012. Since then 12 other tutors have delivered the course and 20 prisoners have graduated. Anne is currently working with her sixth and seventh prisoners. “Each prisoner’s literacy needs and interests are different so the work is always varied and interesting,” she says.
Betty Barltrop has been visiting Christchurch’s Rolleston Prison for the past quarter century as a Salvation Army volunteer. She started coming in with her husband George to play bowls once a month, did not miss a day for 16 years, and continued after George passed away. Betty says she treats them as bowlers, not prisoners, and makes sure they know the door is always open at the Salvation Army on release. Betty plans to keep volunteering as long as she can see prisoners making changes for the better.
Over the last year our volunteers made almost 22,500 visits to prison.
From our Minister
The 2014 election has allowed me to reflect on my three years as Minister of Corrections, and I have to say it has been extremely challenging but incredibly enjoyable.
Everyone is aware of the sea change in our approach. Rehabilitation, education and skills training are now at the heart of what we do – alongside safety and security.
The way in which Corrections staff have embraced this approach has led to significant achievements in reducing re-offending, leading to fewer victims of crime, and I want to congratulate everyone involved for their dedication and hard work.
As well as the big increases in addiction treatment and rehabilitation, there have been many other changes
in recent years.
These include the introduction of rental TVs to help cut back on contraband, greater access to pepper spray for staff, and of course the trial of on-body cameras in high-risk areas. All of these initiatives are increasing staff safety, and moves are already underway to introduce the cameras more widely.
It has been an honour to serve as the Corrections Minister and an absolute pleasure to meet and chat to staff and to so many passionate people throughout the country, in prisons and probation centres.
Hon Anne Tolley
Second helping of ‘Prison Gate to Plate’
In August, Rimutaka Prison again welcomed stakeholders and paying guests to enjoy a top-notch meal prepared by prisoners and well-known Wellington chefs Martin Bosley, Shaun Clouston (Logan Brown) and Rex Morgan (Boulcott Street Bistro).
Visa Wellington On a Plate organisers were keen to include a second helping of ‘Prison Gate to Plate’ in the festival line up, and for a second year running tickets sold out.
Six prisoner chefs and their catering instructors worked with Martin, Shaun and Rex to design and prepare a menu that included jail-made pancetta, rabbit bolognese and a vegetable-based dessert created by the prisoners.
If the comments left by attendees are anything to go by, the dinners were a complete success and highlight the work Corrections is doing to reduce re-offending by giving prisoners the skills they need to find sustainable work outside the wire.
“I thought last year was sensational and would be hard to better… This year the bar was raised again and the visible impact to the men that this experience has given is inspirational!” Jeremy Lightfoot National Commissioner
“As a producer, this has been one of the most rewarding projects that I have had the pleasure of being part of – great food, superb service and a commendable initiative.” Nalini Baruch Lot Eight (provided olive oil for the event).
Read what's been happening around the regions - Regional highlights
Heritage project wants your memories
Did you work at Corrections (or the Penal Division of the Justice Department) in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or 1980s? Do you know someone who worked then?
The Corrections Heritage Centre is really keen to hear from you / your friends and ex-colleagues. We want to capture our rich history by asking you to share your memories of what it was like back then.
Here are some examples of the memories we are capturing:
“Initially as a [female] assistant probation officer we were only allowed to work with female offenders…It took months of persuading before they would let us see male offenders. During my first interview with a male offender my senior PO rang me three times to make sure I was all right! We also had to wear hat and gloves to court. Things improved [as] more women were employed and we continued to be allowed to see male offenders.”
“At the start of my career it was common for staff to live in prison villages. This engendered a spirit of wh?nau amongst staff and families and the support for each other was tremendous.”
“It was common in the 1970s to have two officers in an external yard with over 200 prisoners.”
“One of the most significant changes during my time is the incidence of drug-taking in society and how it has affected the prison population.”
“…[In the 70s] we had minimal/if any training as to how to engage offenders in conversation, motivate them, etc. As a young 25 year old person this was at times very difficult.”
“The new facilities promote staff and prisoner safety and with better accommodation facilities for prisoners increases their rehab and reintegration objectives. In the early stages of my career (1989 – 1993) potties were still used in some of the units I worked in. Plus it was often cold and damp, particularly in the old army huts that they lived in.”
Please get in touch – we will send you a questionnaire to complete.
Phone: (04) 460 3379
Postal enquiries to:
Heritage Programme – Service History Workstream
c/o Charles Post, Department of Corrections
Private Box 1206, Wellington.