As the Arts in Corrections Advisor, I’ve been closely following the progress of Arts in Corrections programmes in New Zealand from 2019 – 2023. During that period, arts programmes and initiatives have continued to expand and evolve.
COVID-19 created significant challenges in the implementation and delivery of Arts in Corrections programming across our prisons. COVID restrictions meant an end to in-person programming and without digital access in prison sites, it was almost Impossible to continue any arts programming. This had disastrous effects on the wellbeing of prisoners and the Arts in Corrections sector.
COVID-19 also had long-term effects on staff wellbeing with staff shortages across all sites. This meant that even after prisons had opened up for arts programmes to recommence, often there weren’t enough staff to manage the number of participants of each programme.
This remains a key issue today and we are still seeing many Arts in Corrections members unable to deliver in person.
Despite these issues, the members have found innovative ways to support people and deliver their programmes. We saw initiatives like Brain Bites, which was established by the education team at the Department of Corrections. We saw organisations like Homeground and Youth Arts New Zealand create and publish arts resources that could be delivered to the site.
Some programmes used the postal system as a way of sending and receiving creative writing projects while The Learning Connexion was able to continue delivering their established distance learning courses throughout the COVID-19 restrictions.
Importance of connecting with each other
COVID-19 reminded us of the importance of connecting with each other and of the passion and resilience Arts in Corrections members have. I want to thank you all for your dedication to the mahi. You should be celebrated.
Amidst the challenges, we have had some amazing new developments.
One of the key developments has been the Creative Arts and Cultural Wellbeing Prison Initiative, a partnership between Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Department of Corrections. This initiative provides funding of $3 million over three years, for the delivery of arts programmes in prisons.
We have profiled just two of the amazing projects that will have a long-term impact on the men and women participating. The first one, Wāhine wake up their creative talents, is about the Awe Māreikura programme running at Christchurch Women’s Prison. The second story, Music therapy for Hawkes Bay tāne, is about Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre’s music therapy programme in Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison.
A governance group has been created to provide advice and guidance for the evaluation of the funded arts initiatives. The group includes representatives from Arts Access Aotearoa, the Department of Corrections and Manatū Taonga. A research company has been contracted to evaluate the initiatives over the three years and produce a report that will outline the value of Arts in Corrections programmes in supporting prisoner wellbeing and positive change.
Examining ways of increasing the arts budget
Ideally, the report would be presented to Treasury so it could examine ways of increasing the arts budget for planned, strategic Arts in Corrections programming – essentially making the Department of Corrections an arts funder.
When I attended my first Arts in Corrections Network in Auckland in 2019, sustainable funding for arts programmes was the most pressing issue. This new fund is the first step in achieving this goal.
Another significant development for the sector is Arts Access Aotearoa’s Arts in Corrections Fellowship. In 2022, we called for applications to four fellowships, each worth $10,000 each. One of the fellowships was to support an artist living in the community and who is/has been in the criminal justice system to develop their art practice. This shift has allowed us to create pathways for people disadvantaged by the stigma of incarceration.
I was really happy this week to celebrate the achievements of Salā Roseanne Leota, inaugural recipient of the Whakahoa Kaitoi i Te Ara Poutama Arts in Corrections Artist Fellowship. It was such a great event, shared with my colleagues at Arts Access Aotearoa, Roseanne's wonderful whānau and Department of Corrections staff.
Another important moment was the release of the Arts in Corrections literature review in 2021, which kickstarted the development of the Department of Corrections’ Arts in Corrections strategic framework.
The literature review collates and analyses case studies from around the world and in Aotearoa, and looks at best practice models for Arts in Corrections’ delivery and strategy.
I want to thank everyone for supporting me in this role over the years and wish everyone the best for the future. It looks bright from where I am standing.
Milly Hampton (they/them) is the Acting Arts in Corrections Advisor. They can be contacted on 04 802 4349 or email@example.com