Congratulations to June Nixey and Janet Forbes, both recognised with Queen's Service Medals for their services to prisoner rehabilitation in the New Year Honours. June was one of three volunteer quilters who delivered a six-week quilt-making class at Arohata Prison back in 1993. June, Janet and their fellow quilters have been running the weekly Shut-in Stitchers class ever since.
The volunteer quilters also received a Highly Commended citation in Arts Access Aotearoa's Big 'A' Prison Arts Community Award 2013. We’ll be calling for nominations to this year’s awards in mid February so please start thinking about prison arts leaders whom you would like to see recognised in this year’s awards.
Reducing re-offending by 25% by 2017 is a good challenge that the Department of Corrections has set itself. Achieving this can be helped by community responses such as the exemplary example set by June and Janet.
But what about after prison? What happens after the volunteer programmes and regular timetables stop and a prisoner is released?
Arts Access Aotearoa understands that connecting released prisoners who have benefitted from arts programmes in prison with community-based arts organisations and mentors will benefit their reintegration prospects.
Ongoing engagement with the arts community
We have set up a pilot project that will support prisoners to connect with community arts organisations and mentors on release. This ongoing engagement with the arts community, we believe, can reinforce positive behaviour. It can also increase prospects and pathways to employment by exploring education, training or work opportunities.
The two stories in this month’s Prison Art New Zealand show how projects and programmes using arts and creativity can help rehabilitation and, potentially, reintegration. One is run by a group of volunteers; the other is run by a paid art tutor, who nevertheless is supported by community volunteers.
Reading project brings prisoners closer to children explores how actor and writer (and patron of Arts Access Aotearoa) Miranda Harcourt is including students from Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School and educational publisher Clean Slate Press in a project where women prisoners are recorded reading books to their children.
Art in a cultural context
Weaving with recycled materials in Pacific Focus Unit is an interview with Cook Island tivaevae artist and art tutor Mary Ama. She demonstrates how art in a cultural context is being utilised with men in the Pacific Focus Unit at Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
These examples, along with the quilting sessions at Arohata Prison, are provided by experienced and highly skilled arts practitioners, who are positive role models from the community.
These activities also demonstrate that participation in arts and cultural projects will be most effective when the activities are matched to a specific prisoner population. It’s important to learn how these and similar activities might support prisoners once they are released.
We’ll be evaluating the success of the pilot project, and updating you on this and similar reintegration projects through Prison Arts New Zealand.
For advice on planning your prison arts activities and making them relevant to assisting Corrections’ long-term reintegration goals please contact our Prison Arts Advisor, Jacqui Moyes (T: 04 802 4349 E: firstname.lastname@example.org).