Practice note: Ara Poutama Practice Framework - our guide to integrated prison practice

Nova Banaghan
Director Quality and Performance and Women’s Strategy, Department of Corrections

Author biography:Nova has been working for the Department of Corrections since June 2016. Nova is a registered Social Worker and previously worked for Child, Youth and Family as a frontline practitioner as well as in the Office of the Chief Social Worker and as the General Manager of Residential and High Needs Services. While at Corrections, Nova’s focus has been developing national first and second line of assurance tools, as well as developing the practice framework.

Nova’s other priority area has been designing and implementing initiatives under the Women’s Strategy.

“What’s this about a prison practice framework? What is it, what does it mean for me, how does it work, why do we need it?”

These are some of the questions that I have heard from prison staff about the Ara Poutama Practice Framework. The purpose of this practice note is to provide context for why a practice framework is needed, information on what the Ara Poutama practice framework is and how we can make it live in our workplaces.


In May 2018, the Chief Executive launched the strategic plan for 2018-2019, Ara Poutama – Pathway to Excellence.

The plan has four priorities – safety, rehabilitation, transitions, and our people. How we carry out these priorities is through our kaupapa Māori values, Te Tokorima ā Maui, developed by the Department’s Māori Services Team.

The values are:

  • Rangatira (leadership) – the demonstration of leadership through integrity and accountability
  • Manaaki (respect) – how we care for and respect others
  • Wairua (spirituality) – the unification and focus of all of our efforts
  • Kaitiaki (guardianship) – we are responsive and responsible and keep each other safe
  • Whānau (relationships) – developing supportive relationships.

These values guide how we treat each other as colleagues, team members and members of society. They guide what we role model to those in prison and those on sentence in the community. The values provide a framework or roadmap for how the men and women in prison treat each other and how they then treat us.

Safe and humane treatment

When people are detained, either on remand or on a sentence, they are deprived of the right to freedom. However, this punishment does not deprive them of their other basic human rights, including the right to healthcare, rehabilitation, and freedom from torture and discrimination. We have a responsibility to ensure people in prison are treated in a fair and humane way.

“When the State deprives a person of liberty, it assumes a duty of care for that person. The primary duty of care is to maintain the safety of persons deprived of their liberty. The duty of care also embraces a duty to safeguard the welfare of the individual.” (Penal Reform International, 2001)

To guide how we care for and manage those in prison in a fair and humane way, national legislation, policy and practice guidance is required. This legislation and guidance is led by our societies’ values alongside the international standards and conventions developed by such bodies as the United Nations to protect the human rights of those in prison.

Treating people in prison with humanity and respect is part of the “correctional” process. A successful prison system can demonstrate how people should be treated in a just society. By demonstrating respect for their rights, a person can learn what it feels like to be treated that way and through rehabilitation will learn to treat others the same way.

As stated above, our standards for prison operating practice are derived from many international standards and conventions, and from resolutions adopted in international and national governmental forums. Many of our standards have developed from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Uniquely, Aotearoa New Zealand also has Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) that guides how we work together as mana whenua (original inhabitants of the land, or Māori) and tauiwi (those from another place). Te Tiriti’s principles of protection, partnership and participation define how we treat those in society as well as those in prison. As half of the male prison population and 60% of the women’s prison population are Māori, this is particularly relevant when we think about how we support their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.

The Ara Poutama Practice Framework

Since 2009, the Department of Corrections has had a practice framework in Community Corrections that moved probation officers’ practice from a prescriptive manual to an integrated practice framework guided by principles and values that support professional judgement and decision making.

While there are pockets of practice within our prisons that demonstrate staff exercising professional judgement based on values or principles of fair treatment, there has not been a formal integrated practice framework to guide a “one team” approach to the safe and humane care of those in prison.

Te Tokorima ā Maui, the Department’s five kaupapa Māori values, now provide us with the platform from which to launch an integrated, values based practice framework within the prison setting. Building on the probation framework, the Ara Poutama Practice Framework supports the bringing together of many different professional roles to work as one team. The framework will guide policies and operational practice on how to work together in a safe and informed way to achieve our organisational goals.

While initially focusing on prisons, the Ara Poutama Practice Framework will also span Community Corrections and eventually the existing probation integrated practice framework will be relaunched to reflect the kaupapa Māori values. The Corrections Quality and Performance Team is organising regional hui for October and November 2018 to discuss implementation both in the prison and probation sites. The Chief Probation Officer’s team is also working on what changes may be required to embed this in probation.

Of course, legislation provides us with many of the actions we must take. How we carry them out will be guided by the practice framework. We will consider the values in regard to our approach, thinking about the wellbeing of staff as well as the person in prison.

The Practice Framework provides a description of the values as well as the behaviours that demonstrate the values. It also provides examples of behaviours that a person would see when they are demonstrating the values.

What does the framework mean for my practice?

The framework is applicable to every role in Corrections, whether a corrections officer, nurse, industry instructor or case manager. The values and behaviours relate to everything Corrections staff do.

The framework incorporates our purpose and outcomes (Appendix One), bringing everything together in one place. It also provides for the realities of practice, considering the everyday activities of those working in the prison environment.

For example – Manaaki – what does this look like? It can mean, for example, that we do what we say we will, and that we respect people’s ethnicity, gender, sexuality and race. In the prison environment, Manaaki may be as simple as saying hello or good morning to people.

Wairua (spirituality) means being unified and focused in our efforts. In the prison, this could be as simple as asking a person about their religion, understanding it and being respectful of their beliefs.

The framework is used when implementing a new policy or practice. For example, at a national level, when we are designing a new initiative or policy, we measure against each value to see if the initiative aligns with it.

The same applies to implementing at a local or site level. Every new piece of work or policy can be measured against the values, to see if they reflect how we want to operate on every site, how we want to treat each other, and how we treat the men and women in prison. Does our practice reflect our values? Does it reflect safer and humane treatment? Does our practice help us develop people who will be “good neighbours” when they leave prison or does it reinforce a punitive response?

The framework encourages a “one team” approach to how we work, bringing together the different professions to achieve the Department’s outcomes. As there is currently no overarching framework for prison practice, each profession (for example, health, case management and custodial teams) all have their own policies, standards and ways of operating. The framework guides them to work together, united by common values. Each role will continue to have their own professional standards, but where their practice overlaps there will be integrated policies guided by the values and behaviours set out in the practice framework.

What’s next?

Over the next few months, the Quality and Performance team, in conjunction with the Māori Services Team, Regional Practice Teams and prison directors, will be developing resources, guidance and support to embed the framework throughout our prisons. These resources will be loaded onto the Corrections intranet (Tātou) for everyone to access and to begin implementing on their site.

If you are keen and interested to know about how to starting using this on your site or in your team, contact Nova Banaghan or Valerie Shirley, Manager Quality and Performance for more information.

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Appendix 1 - Ara Poutama Practice Framework PDF, 269.5 KB