A targeted programme is wiping the slate clean for prisoners with drug and alcohol issues.
Hawke's Bay Regional Prison's Drug Treatment Unit (DTU) has completed 50 of the six-month courses, with 10 prisoners graduating from the most recent round.
A total of 541 prisoners have been through the process since it began in May 2007, in conjunction with treatment provider CareNZ.
Addressing alcohol and drug abuse is a priority focus area for the Department of Corrections, with two-thirds of New Zealand prisoners known to have substance abuse problems and more than 50 per cent of crime committed by people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
"I now have better insight of the underlying factors to my addiction," course graduate *Jack said. "I can identify triggers that lead to high-risk situations to eliminate re-offending in the future."
Prison director George Massingham said graduation was an important milestone in recovery and the prevention of a relapse. "Not only is the Drug Treatment Unit addressing the men's addiction to drugs and alcohol, it's an important step in their rehabilitation," he said.
"It represents a fresh start ... and will benefit them, their families and the community."
CareNZ has worked alongside Corrections in facilitating treatment units since 1997, when the first was opened in Arohata Women's Prison.
General manager of operations at CareNZ Gill Hood highlighted many outcomes of the specialised programme.
"It has taken them a lot of courage and hard work to make changes to their lives," she said.
"Research shows that DTU programmes are effective in reducing crime, we will continue to support offenders in prison and are also planning to expand our services for graduates in the community."
The DTU is a separate 60-bed area away from the mainstream prison which provides a supportive and caring environment.
A community comprising prisoners and staff worked together to establish an environment where participants felt safe to address their issues.
Through structured group work, social skills, training and therapy groups they address "factors" which influence substance abuse use as a tool to reduce offending behaviour.
Criteria for entry to the programme is strict - prisoners must first acknowledge they have an addiction and be motivated to change their own lives.
Greater access to alcohol and drug treatment is one of the ways Corrections aimed to reduce re-offending by 25 per cent by 2017.
Options were also available for prisoners who were not part of the DTU. A range of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and intervention programmes are also offered to those carrying out community sentences.
* Not his real name