25 November 2013
Parental neglect, family violence, child abuse, drugs and alcohol … It’s a grim picture and for some young people, the path to prison is inevitable.
I was very interested to read the second issue of Practice, a journal published by the Department of Corrections. The issue is focused on youth offending and the work being done to rehabilitate young people who enter the criminal justice system.
Practice includes articles by academics and agencies researching and working with young people. I particularly enjoyed those written by Corrections staff, who provide insights into their work and what’s being done to prevent vulnerable youth returning to the criminal justice system.
A common thread in these articles is the importance of partnerships and community support to help Corrections achieve its goal of a 25 per cent reduction in re-offending by 2017. As the article Working effectively with youth points out, youth offenders re-offend at a higher rate than any other group managed by Corrections.
Breaking the cycle of youth re-offending, therefore, is a key contributor to attaining this 25 per cent reduction in recidivism.
We were pleased to renew our contract with Corrections this month and continue this partnership.
Alongside our support for staff and volunteers developing arts activities in prison, we’ll be running a pilot project to connect artistically talented prisoners post release with the arts community. The aim of this is to provide a positive, stable environment where they can continue their arts practice and explore employment opportunities.
Jacqui Moyes, our Prison Arts Advisor, will be driving this pilot project. Jacqui, along with other Arts Access Aotearoa staff, have extensive networks in communities throughout the country. Please email Jacqui or call 04 802 4349 if you would like to discuss this pilot or would like information or advice about art activities in New Zealand prisons.
The two stories in this month’s Prison Arts New Zealand e-newsletter – one from Southland, the other from Northland – both demonstrate the importance of community support in reducing recidivism.
Phil Ngeru, one of eight Māori advisors with Corrections, is constantly building and maintaining relationships with organisations and providers that can provide the necessary support to prevent re-offending after prison.
In Tikanga a key to reducing Maori recidivism, Phil talks about the importance of tikanga Māori – guidelines on how to behave in daily life – in prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration. The tikanga programmes run by Waihopai Rūnaka in Invercargill are a very successful model and the reason the rūnaka received this year’s Big ‘A’ Prison Arts Community Award.
In the north, art tutor and distance learning facilitator Sandra Harvey has set up an artist workshop project. This involves established artists coming into Northland Region Corrections Facility to share their life experience, and their artistic and business skills with the men.
Sandra is keen to develop this further and start a mentoring project where artists and art groups would become mentors for the men after their release.
Reading these stories and thinking of the fantastic volunteers who pass on their skills to prisoners reminds me that there is a lot of good will in the community to give prisoners a second chance to choose a positive and productive path.
We believe in recognising Corrections staff, contractors and community volunteers for their efforts and achievements every year at the Big ‘A’ Awards. We’ll be calling for nominations in late January so please start thinking about the people you would like to see thanked in this way.