Musical mahi bears sweet results
Ten women graduated from the Music Creation course at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) in July.
Part of the Foundation Sound and Music programme, the course is delivered by MAINZ, a faculty of Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP).
Performing songs they’d composed themselves, the graduates entertained a supportive audience of prisoners, Corrections’ staff and external visitors, including TPP Chief Executive Alex Cabrera.
“The waiata encapsulated the wahine’s stories, with words that came from the heart,” says ARWCF Prison Director Cheryle Mikaere.
“After 17 weeks of hard-out mahi, our graduates shared their personal journeys, not only about the past and the present, but also the future – celebrating the skills, talent, passion and motivation they’ll take with them when they’re released.”
“We had the best time,” said one of the graduates. “I love music and singing. I hope I can continue studying when I leave prison.”
MAINZ Programme Leader Foundation Phil Oxenham says the programme is designed to give students core foundational skills in music.
“The course teaches a range of basic skills, including live sound and recording, song writing, decoding and deconstructing lyrics, music history, audio engineering, and performance,” says Phil.
Language week showcases diversity
In August, Cook Islands Language Week celebrations at Manurewa Community Corrections attracted the attention of Radio 531pi, which serves Pasifika communities throughout New Zealand.
Manurewa Service Manager Marua Kutu and two probation officers were interviewed live on air by Radio 531pi in two programmes about Community Corrections, and the importance of staff being able to communicate in offenders’ mother tongues.
Marua is of Tongan-Coo kIslands descent and is fluent in Tongan.
“Listeners’ responses were fantastic,” says Marua, who also took questions from listeners who phoned in.
Marua explained in Tongan what the work of Community Corrections entails. She also highlighted Corrections’ recruitment drive, and asked listeners to visit our frontline jobs website.
“South Auckland is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Auckland, if not New Zealand, and migrant communities in the area are growing,” says Marua.
Corrections staff find speaking someone’s language helps to establish trust and a connection, not only with the offender, but also with his or her family.
Almost seven per cent of the New Zealand population identifies as Cook Islands Māori, and after Samoan, Cook Islands Māori is the most spoken Polynesian language.
Waikeria Prison kitchen serves up a fresh start
For over 25 years, Waikeria Prison’s catering unit has not only been serving meals to prisoners, they have been helping prisoners attain the experience and qualifications needed to succeed on the outside.
“What they learn in the kitchen extends well beyond how to cook safe, flavoursome food,” says Industries Manager Wiremu Jensen. “Prisoners also learn about having a work ethic and how to work as part of a team, which for some is a new experience.”
Through the catering unit, prisoners can attain levels two, three and four in hospitality, the same qualifications held by many chefs working in restaurants and hotels.
These qualifications, combined with experience in food preparation, exposure to a wide range of cooking techniques, quality control, storage and presentation, mean that prisoners can walk out and make a fresh start.
Four former prisoners have done just that. One is now a tutor at a Private Training Establishment that runs hospitality courses, another owns a catering business, a third has a full time assistant chef position in a café, and a fourth has his own food truck.
The prison’s kitchen produces over 2,000 nutritious meals a day. As well as running a commercial kitchen, prisoners are taught fine dining and preparation of café style food. Barista training is also provided.
“The kitchen employs about 35 prisoners a day,” says Wiremu. “Since the catering unit started in 1991, thousands of prisoners have gained experience and qualifications so they can make a fresh start in the hospitality industry.”
350 traps for Otanewainuku forest
A partnership between Corrections, Department of Conservation (DoC) and the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust will help save native species in the Otanewainuku Forest.
Around 10 Bay of Plenty community offenders have recently constructed 72 predator traps to help manage pests in the 1,200 hectare forest. They have worked on this project for two to three days per week, over a two week period. The offenders are now constructing a further 280 traps.
Tauranga Lead Service Manager Mark Nijssen says, “Otanewainuku is home to over 300 native plant species, along with kiwi, kokako, native bats, North Island robin and tree weta. The traps are designed to humanely kill ferrets, stoats, rats and hedgehogs to help protect native flora and fauna.”
Protecting Otanewainuku, which means ‘the many waters that spring forth from the domain of Tane’, led to the formation of the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust in 2002. The Trust operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with DoC who administers the land and gives advice on pest control.
Mark is talking to the Trust about getting community work crews to help lay bait and check traps to further assist pest eradication efforts.
Successful collaboration results in Partnership Award
Wellington District Community Corrections recognised its partners in the Alcohol Impairment Education Programme (AIEP) with a Community Partnership Award recently.
Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and Upper Hutt City Council’s Road Safety Team are partners in the programme with Corrections that delivers a sobering message to offenders.
“The award recognises the ongoing support of our partners in delivering this programme to offenders in the Wellington district,” says District Manager Sue Abraham.
AIEP is a one-day motivational and educational programme aimed at preventing driver impairment and encouraging sensible decision-making. It encourages good decision-making around drinking and driving and an understanding of the ‘ripple effect’ poor decision-making can have on families and communities.
Offenders participate in activities while wearing goggles that simulate being under the influence. They talk to Police, fire fighters, a mortician, and a council’s road safety team, and see and hear about the consequences of driving after drinking or drug-taking.
“The visual impact of the programme makes offenders realise they don’t want to become another drink-driving fatality,” says Sue.
The first programme in the Wellington district was held in February 2016. Around 80 offenders have participated to date, including 20 women in Arohata Prison’s Drug Treatment Unit where it was introduced to the prison for the first time in July.
Just Boards more than boards
It’s not every day a product launch is held behind bars, but that’s where the BRUTHAS, a team of five youth prisoners in Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and six pupils from St John’s College Hastings, held the launch of their innovative ‘Just Boards’ product.
As part of the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), BRUTHAS designed a unique set of wooden boards that can be used as a chopping board or serving platter.
Made from recycled rimu, each set consists of four boards that interlock like a jigsaw and resemble a waka. Each set comes inside an upcycled coffee sack with a drawstring tie.
The team made prototype boards, conducted market research, crunched numbers on production costs vs projected sales, prepared a business plan, and presented it to business mentors and YES project judges in a Dragon’s Den-style format.
The project’s about more than making boards: it’s about collaboration and camaraderie.
Speaking after the launch in the prison’s Te Tirohanga unit, youth prisoner ‘CEO’ Don* said, “It was a great experience because getting involved with people that have their freedom motivated us to achieve more and aim high. St John’s played a good role in this project and I’m thankful to have been part of it.”
Boards have been sold at local cafes and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ market. Orders for the boards have exceeded supply.
Fonterra recognises prison dairy farm
In July, Fonterra recognised the efforts of instructors and prisoners working on the dairy farm at Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) with a certificate of achievement.
The certificate was for ‘low somatic cell count’ which is a measure of milk quality or purity.
The farm was ranked 137th out of over 10,000 suppliers and finished in the top one percentile of farms that supply Fonterra.
“This is a significant achievement for the prisoners working on the farm, the farm team and the prison as a whole,” says OCF Principal Instructor Dairy Tony Russell.
“We’re a training farm, teaching prisoners employable skills they can use to maintain a crime free life on release.”
Over the past five to six seasons, staff at the prison have put a considerable amount of work into the dairy skills of the men on the farm and the stock programme.
“Most of the work on the farm is done by around five prisoners, most of whom have had nothing to do with farming before,” says Tony.
Acting Prison Director Lyndal Miles says the whole site is incredibly proud.
“We’re delighted that Fonterra has recognised our farm’s excellence in animal health practices and ongoing commitment to milk quality,” says Lyndal.
“Corrections is giving people employable skills and work aptitudes. We’re keen to find opportunities with employers who’re willing to offer a second chance to offenders.”
Pilot improving sentence compliance
Seven months into a youth offender initiative in Dunedin, Corrections staff are seeing a big improvement in compliance from local youth offenders.
The Otago Community Work Pilot began in February. It recognises that youth are different from adult offenders, and aims to better engage them in their sentences, and help them gain the skills and desire to make better decisions.
Beginning with the development of a youth-only community work team, the initiative has grown to include Work and Living Skills opportunities and employment conversations specific to the interests of the young people.
“It’s vitally important we work as a community to get youth offenders through their sentences and making more positive life choices,” says Corrections Dunedin Service Manager and Youth Champion Cathryn Elsworth.
Youth form a disproportionate part of the offender population. Corrections manages around 40,000 offenders every year, and 7,500 are under 24. Young people re-offend at a higher rate and more serious level than any other group we manage.
Otago Probation Officer and ex-All Black Paul Miller provided an excellent mentoring opportunity. He took five youth offenders to watch the Highlanders do their captain’s run (training session run by the captain the day before the game) and meet some of the players.
“Hearing the Highlanders speak to the young offenders about their personal goals was very powerful,” says Paul. “The young people left feeling inspired, and talking about their goals and how to achieve them.”