Corrections says new rehabilitation programmes responsive to young offenders and the way they learn will help young people change their futures and make a positive difference to communities.

"We have a range of activities and interventions for young offenders which aim to keep them engaged, motivate them to turn away from a life of crime and encourage them to be the best they can be," youth strategy principal adviser Ashley Shearar says.

About 330 people under 20 are in prison and a further 1300 are serving a sentence or order in the community.

For Youth Week 2018 (19 May–27 May), Corrections acknowledged the work being done with and for young people in prison and on community sentences or orders.

The theme for this year's annual Youth Week was "Ahakoa te aha, kei a koe te tikanga: Be who you want to be".

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"Many people think that by the time young people come to Corrections it's too late to make a difference," Shearar said. "But research tells us late adolescence presents a real opportunity to support these youth to a positive adulthood and motivate them to change their offending behaviour."

Youth have a unique way of learning and Corrections offers specific rehabilitation programmes targeting offenders under the age of 20, both in prison and in the community. These include the Mauri Toa Rangatahi ("the power of youth") programme.

The Mauri Toa Rangatahi programme helps offenders learn how to change attitudes and behaviours, manage their emotions and develop problem-solving skills.

Chief custodial officer Neil Beales says many young people in prisons and serving sentences in the community have had chaotic upbringings, including exposure to gangs, drugs and violence.

"We know what a difference it can make to the future of young offenders when they feel that there is someone there supporting and believing in them. For some, our staff can be the only positive role model they have and the work we do makes a real difference."

A dedicated youth unit at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison provides a positive environment for young prisoners, designed to set them up to lead a crime free life when they leave.

"Be who you want to be" is reflected in the anti-bullying book and CD one group of prisoners in Hawkes Bay Regional Prison's youth unit are developing as part of the YES (Young Enterprise Scheme) programme.

Eight youth have formed the Letz Lead team to produce and market a book and CD for youth aged 12 and above to start a discussion in schools about bullying and to provide coping skills.

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The young men are assisted by their prison education tutor Nic Scotland and their YES tutor Colette Mintoff. As part of their continuing education, the young men are working on their business and financial skills while working towards their Young Enterprise Certificate.

The group is also working on their strengths designing illustrations, writing lyrics and text, and producing the music for the CD.

"The project our rangatahi [youth] are undertaking reflects perspectives of rangatahi they have come into contact with," says Lawrence Ereatara, a residential manager at the prison.
"It's about how a victim of bullying developed into the very bully they despised, and how victims of bullying behaviour found the courage and stood up to them.

The book and CD will be available by order from Hawke's Bay Regional Prison through New Zealand schools and libraries.

A two-year pilot of a new youth-specific Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment programme also began this month at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.