Maori and prison: Helping hand for those on outside

By Yvonne Tahana

Government should boost spending on services for ex-prisoners, especially short-termers, says advocate.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the Government's "Out of Gate" spend of $10 million over two years, was a step in the right direction. Photo / Andrew Warner
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the Government's "Out of Gate" spend of $10 million over two years, was a step in the right direction. Photo / Andrew Warner

A justice sector advocate believes the Government should invest up to $40 million in upskilling Maori service providers for helping ex-prisoners.

Former Prison Service head Kim Workman reckons that's about four times what the Government spends on services for those leaving prison after short stays.

He said resources went to offenders who had been jailed for longer than two years, but more work could be done for those imprisoned for less time.

"Our point is 70 per cent of the prisoners will be out in six months, especially Maori, so you get a really high number who are serving short terms in prison. These are the guys who fill up the prisons. They can be helped significantly by putting together a reintegration plan that addresses their immediate needs with whanau and the community."

Mr Workman said Maori health providers could be invested in to provide services to ex-prisoners. He believed large providers such as Raukura Hauora o Tainui already had 70 to 80 per cent of the required expertise and could get the remainder with extra specialised training.

Prisoners needed more than the traditional house, job and finances sorted when they left prison, Mr Workman said. They also needed a social support network to replace dysfunctional families.

"What you're really looking at is $40 million, about four times as much funding, to be able to develop a strategy that stacks up. What it does buy is people to provide the support and also rehabilitation services or cognitive behaviour programmes."

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the Government's "Out of Gate" spend of $10 million (over two years) on up to 4000 prisoners serving less than two years was a step in that direction. However, money couldn't just be thrown around.

Corrections had launched a new education strategy which she hoped would put downwards pressure on the numbers of released Maori offenders who were back within 12 months - 51 per cent. She acknowledged taxpayers might not be happy with the spend.

"There is sort of a general understanding that a lot of offenders do come back out into our communities and they really want them to get on with their lives and not commit more crime. So there's a grudging acknowledgement that we do need to do this."

Mrs Tolley said there was enormous change going on to meet the goal of a 25 per cent cut in reoffending by all prisoners by 2017.

"It's ambitious but we're at 10.3 per cent already [reduction over the past two years] ... and the staff are really confident that they can do it. It's a tough target ... they've had to think very seriously about changes to the way they work with offenders."

Staying out

$153 million spent by Corrections on rehabilitation programmes and reintegration for offenders in the 2011/2012 financial year
$10 million Spending for those leaving prison after less than two years

- NZ Herald

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