By David Pine
Posted: 5 February 2014
There are 23,000 children in New Zealand who have a parent in jail. This stark statistic was quoted by Paul Tomlinson, Lower North Island Manager of the Department of Corrections during his presentation to Plimmerton Rotary on 4th February 2014.
The NZ Corrections Department employs 8000 staff throughout NZ. Roles are many and varied, including probation officers, corrections officers and psychiatrists. Their principal task is to look after the 8500 inmates in our prisons, most of whom are males aged between 18 and 24. Two thirds of them suffer from the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Corrections staff are focussed on reducing the high rate of reoffending and on halting intergenerational crime. They do this by encouraging participation in education and training, and through work experience. Inmates are encouraged to study any topics that are of interest to them. Many have achieved meaningful goals in learning about life skills (such as the importance of proper nutrition) and parenting skills. Courses of education range from basic literacy to advanced NCEA qualifications.
Training is provided in most trades including construction, forestry and dairy farming. A recent innovation is for prisoners nearing release to be offered work outside the prison. Mr Tomlinson gave an example of a company that owns orchards, which has partnered with Corrections to provide work for prisoners. Everyone wins in this situation. Prisoners benefit from being gainfully employed outside the prison, the orchard company has a ready source of labour, and the community benefits through prisoners being more likely to reintegrate positively into society.
Mr Tomlinson gave an example of a prisoner who had worked at a particular orchard while in prison. Some time after his release the man decided to take his wife and young family to the orchard and, with a tremendous amount of pride, showed them where he had been working and described what he had done. This sort of outcome was very important to Corrections staff in that it demonstrated that all their hard work did often have positive results.