It is hard to overemphasise the importance of reintegrating inmates into the community when they are released from prison.

If we don't want them reoffending and ending up back behind bars, we need to provide support and stability and that covers the likes of accommodation, employment and some sort of social structure — as well as careful monitoring.

Here in Whanganui, PARS (Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society) and other agencies do a lot of difficult but extremely worthwhile work in this area.

Corrections also has a vital role to play, and last month it moved to set up an "extended supervision facility" — what is colloquially termed "a halfway house" — along Shakespeare Rd on Whanganui's Bastia Hill.


Of course, nobody in that attractive neighbourhood is rushing to have former prisoners, parolees and the like moving in next door.

And it only took the threat of a residents' petition for Corrections to pull the plug.

Good news, perhaps, for the folk on Bastia Hill — but what is the message from this?

These people transitioning back into society have to live somewhere, yet no one is keen to have them on their patch.

So is it that if you get organised, collect signatures and make a big enough fuss, Corrections will back off?

That's not solving the problem; it's merely pushing it somewhere else.

With a substantial prison just down the highway — one which, incidentally, provides a lot of jobs and a significant economic boost to Whanganui — it is not unreasonable for us to have these reintegration houses in town.

In this case, it appears Corrections did a poor job of consulting the community.


As Bastia Hill resident and former councillor Stephen Palmer pointed out, local residents had a right to much more information than Corrections was readily making available.

How many people in the facility; had they served their term; were they on parole; had they jobs to go to; what sort of supervision would be in place; what offences had they been imprisoned for?

These are all legitimate concerns and ones Corrections should have fronted up about at an early stage.

A more transparent approach, full information and wider consultation would have made it easier to sell the idea.

Next time — one presumes there will be a next time — they will have hopefully taken a few lessons on board.