Prisoners taking part in this year’s Visa Wellington on a Plate are learning skills that will help them make positive changes in their lives, says Corrections Minister Louise Upston.
It’s the fifth time Rimutaka Prison has taken part in the event, and demand for tickets to its Gate to Plate this year was so great that a ballot had to be held.
Dinner will be prepared and served by a group of prisoners to around 240 paying guests over three nights starting on 15 August.
“If these men are able to gain catering qualifications and serve up restaurant quality meals, they’ll be able to find good jobs and have a far better chance of living crime-free on release,” says Ms Upston.
This year, as well as the dinners, three pop-up lunch events will be held the following week. Food made by the prisoners will be sold from a caravan in Midland Park in Wellington.
“The ongoing success of this event is the result of collaboration with industry groups and people giving back to their communities,” Ms Upston says.
Chef Martin Bosley with two guest chefs, James Pask from Whitebait and Kristan Mulcahy from Dillinger’s and the Green Man, have been working with Corrections catering instructors to mentor the prisoners in preparing and presenting the gourmet meals.
“I think Corrections and Martin Bosley can be very proud of creating something so positive inside Rimutaka Prison,” Ms Upston says.
Corrections has produced a video which can be viewed on its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CorrectionsNZ/
A continued focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of prisoners is the best way to turn the tide on the growing prison population, Corrections Minister Louise Upston says.
Corrections has a number of programmes designed to give offenders a chance at turning their lives around. This was recently given a boost in the Budget with an extra $18.6m for industry, training and support programmes in prisons.
“There is a degree of personal responsibility needed here but Corrections has worked hard in recent years to tailor programmes suited to individuals, designed to help them lead better, crime-free lives when they are released,” says Ms Upston.
“In its efforts to reduce reoffending, Corrections has placed significant emphasis on boosting the education of offenders. In the last financial year the rate of prisoners who started and completed a rehabilitation programme was around 80 per cent.”
Some of the programmes include short motivational programmes, young offenders programmes, drug and alcohol interventions, Maori therapeutic interventions, medium intensity rehabilitation programmes and special treatment unit programmes.
Corrections is committed to giving offenders access to vocational and trades training which support them into employment. In the last year almost 4000 qualifications were awarded to prisoners.
“The department is particularly focused on increasing the number of higher level qualifications achieved by prisoners in the areas of trades and technical training, as these are generally in higher demand from employers,” says Ms Upston.
The drug treatment unit programmes, which are a live-in therapeutic environment for prisoners with alcohol and drug issues, have had the largest increase in participation. The six-month programmes have shown positive results with reductions in rates of both reconviction and re-imprisonment.
In 2008, 234 prisoners started a drug treatment programme but by 2017 that had increased to 5395.
The launch of a new package of secondary school resources will help boost students’ understanding of and engagement with the primary industries, says Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston.
“Our primary industries are a vital part of our economy which account for more than 70 per cent of exports,” says Ms Upston.
“The Government is set on doubling our primary sector exports by 2025 but to do this we need a sustainable and skilled workforce. Ensuring we are engaging and educating students in primary industries technology early on plays a big part in this.”
This package is a part of a series of resources for schools developed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Developed as a set of learning activities for mathematics, science, social studies and technology, the resources provide real-life primary industry situations, with a focus on innovation, for Year 9 and 10 students.
“School resources are one way of informing students about the diverse range of rewarding career pathways available in the primary sector before they enter tertiary study or the work force. With strong growth in the primary sector anticipated over the next few years, we need to encourage more young people to consider these options,” Ms Upston says.
The resources are available on the MPI website at https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/teacher-resources/using-sopi-in-schools/
Corrections Minister Louise Upston is impressed at the results being achieved by the Department’s Employer Partnerships initiatives and is looking forward to them continuing to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“Finding steady employment for offenders when they leave prison is a critical step to helping these people turn their lives around. The work Corrections has been doing with offenders and potential employers in this area is very promising,” says Ms Upston.
“The decision to recruit eight Offender Recruitment Consultants nationwide has proved particularly successful. Since they began making placements in November, 482 offenders have successfully moved into employment.”
The Employer Partnerships initiatives are designed to support offenders into employment with opportunities provided both inside and outside prison.
Offenders can obtain qualifications through education and training courses offered whilst in prison and this provides them with the first step towards employment when they are released.
Corrections then works with potential employers to match prisoners with positions relevant to their experience and qualifications. So far 125 employers have signed MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) with the Department.
“We have hosted three successful Employer’s breakfasts already this year in Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington. The feedback from employers has been positive and has enabled us to engage, and build relationships, with employers, informing them of the opportunities available by working with Corrections.”
“There is a natural hesitancy for employers to take on offenders but the work that is being undertaken by Corrections is helping to break down those perceptions and is delivering work ready employees,” says Ms Upston.
Corrections is developing an enhanced strategy to build on the early success of the programme. This includes both a national and regional focus and an initiative to encourage current partners to bring a ‘friend’ to future events to understand the work being done by Corrections in industry, education and training.
This week the second phase of the alcohol interlock pilot is being launched nationally, including active involvement with the offenders’ probation officers, says Corrections Minister Louise Upston.
$694,000 has been secured from the Justice Sector Fund for phase two of the Alcohol Interlock pilot. Phase two will see Corrections fund a further 240 alcohol interlock devices for eligible offenders serving community sentences for drink driving offences.
“Interlocks are a tool which helps stop offenders driving under the influence, making our roads and communities safer,” says Ms Upston.
“The first phase of the pilot funded 175 alcohol interlock devices which are connected to the start-up mechanism of a vehicle and immobilise it until the driver has successfully passed a breath alcohol test.
“To be eligible to be part of the phase two pilot an offender must have a sentence of Intensive Supervision of over 12 months, have a previous conviction of driving while intoxicated and be motivated to adhere to the alcohol interlock requirements.
“The second phase of the pilot will include probation officers being more closely involved in monitoring offenders’ progress with their interlock licences and responding to any violations”.
Research has shown that when monitored and matched with treatment and interventions, alcohol interlocks can support an offender’s long-term behavioural change. Internationally, the use of alcohol interlock devices has shown results of between 64 to 70 per cent reduction in recidivism of alcohol-impaired driving.
“Offenders charged with drink driving can face lengthy driving disqualification periods imposed by the courts. This can cause disruption for offenders continuing to work and being able to provide for their families.
“Stable employment is a key factor influencing offenders to turn away from a life of crime. The interlock programme means offenders can keep their jobs and continue to look after their families without putting their community at risk.”
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has welcomed more than 45 new frontline corrections officers to the team.
The latest cohort graduating at a ceremony in Wellington today includes officers from Samoa, South Africa, the Philippines, India, the United Kingdom and the Cook Islands. They also come from a range of previous career paths and professions.
“I’m delighted to see such a diverse array of individuals choosing to work with Corrections,” Ms Upston says.
“Their experience is vast and among them are former police officers, mental health workers, hairdressers, stay-at-home parents, plumbers, butchers, beauty therapists and bouncers.
“We value previous life skills as it will stand our new staff in good stead during their time on the frontline in prison. Being a corrections officer is a big responsibility, but one that brings with it immense rewards.
“If an officer can give someone the support and skills they need to finish their sentence and not re-offend, then we’re giving that person another chance. More than that, they are safeguarding a better future for their partners, their children, their victims and their community.”
Karlo Reyes, from Christchurch Men’s Prison, was presented with the Minister’s Excellence Award acknowledging the work ethic, enthusiasm and drive he displayed throughout the 12 weeks of training.
Mr Reyes was born in Davao, in the Philippines, and has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He also has experience working with people mental health issues and with intellectual and physical disabilities.
“Karlo has really found his feet in New Zealand and, like the other officers in this cohort, is another wonderful addition to Corrections,” Ms Upston says.
“He is described as having a great outlook on life and has the ability to work well with people in stressful situations, showing great patience and empathy.”
The new graduates will work at Northland, Mt Eden, Auckland Women’s, Spring Hill and Otago corrections facilities, and at Waikeria, Rimutaka, Arohata, Christchurch Women’s and Men’s prisons.
Minister Louise Upston will today host her second cross-sector employment breakfast in Northland in as many weeks, as the Government seeks to strengthen the links between educators and employers, and to match up relevant training opportunities for young people with the jobs that need filling.
As Minister of Corrections, Associate Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills & Employment, Associate Minister for Primary Industries, and Associate Minister of Education, Ms Upston has responsibility for the Northland Place-Based Initiative ‘Kainga Ora’, which brings together government agencies, NGOs, iwi, and community leaders to support programmes that will have a positive impact on young Northlanders.
Launched in September 2016, Kainga Ora builds on the work of the Northland Social Wellbeing Governance Group, an interagency group made up of local social sector leaders, including iwi, to better respond to the challenges facing vulnerable children, youth and families in Northland.
“My plan is to make sure that the Kainga Ora, Regional Economic Growth strategy and Youth Employment Pathways are all aligned and working in an open and collaborative way to ensure we are truly achieving the best possible outcomes for our young people in Northland.
“The Primary Industry Skills Pipeline for Northland shows the destinations of secondary students entering into tertiary study and primary industry related study, and in my opinion it seems crazy that only eight per cent of students were training in primary related fields, to feed over 3500 primary industry jobs that are already or are soon to be available in Northland. We need to do better to match this pipeline with real, sustainable employment opportunities.
“We know that Northland has immense potential. While it’s well known that the rate of those not in employment, education or training is high, initiatives such as this provide a real opportunity to make a tangible difference.
“The intention is not to replicate what is already being done, but to build on the work underway and bolster the chances our young people have to be successful. In practice, this could mean building on proven local initiatives such as T500, Kaikohe GROW, or looking at other new and innovative approaches.
Ms Upston says that in addition to the events she has been hosting in Northland, Corrections have also been focusing on increasing engagement with employers and have held a series of breakfasts throughout New Zealand to encourage employers to give former offenders a chance. Corrections play an important part in providing pathways for offenders back into education or employment to secure them a better future.
“I want to encourage all of our stakeholders to expand on this, for example with the local Communities of Learning | Kahui Ako in Northland talking to employers and inviting them into their schools to get our next generation of employees excited about the kinds of exciting and highly paid employment opportunities that are growing in their region.
Ms Upston says the announcement last week by the Prime Minister of a $50 million Regional Youth Employment Strategy to support at-risk young people into work provides further impetus to support the Northland community to make the most of all of the work the Government is doing to support them.
“Northland is one of four regions targeted by the Prime Minister’s $50m Youth Employment Pathways programme which will focus on those aged 15-24 who experience significant periods of unemployment, and those who have, since age 18, spent six continuous months on benefit, with the aim of helping this group of young people move into sustained employment or onto a pathway that leads to sustained employment,” Ms Upston says.
“I expect discussions like today to continue beyond these breakfast events, and to result in real change because the status quo is not acceptable, and ultimately everyone stands to benefit from improved life outcomes for Northland’s young people.”
As part of a $14 million initiative to help offenders and their families cope with mental health challenges, four new services are now being piloted by Corrections, says Corrections Minister Louise Upston.
Under its Mental Health and Reintegration Programme, the pilots aim to better support offenders who have mental health needs in prison and the community.
“Prisoners and community-based offenders face mental health challenges at a far higher rate than the general population,” Ms Upston says.
“It is crucial that Corrections meets these mental health needs while these people are in their care. Addressing these issues lowers the barriers to their participation in industry, treatment and learning activities.”
The new services are include increased mental health support for prisoners and community-based offenders; counselling and social work support for women prisoners; support in transitioning back into communities for prisoners with severe mental needs; and wrap around support for families of offenders receiving mental health services.
Under the two-year pilot, mental health clinicians and family support workers have been appointed at 16 prisons and in four Community Corrections sites in Manukau, Hamilton, Palmerston North, and Dunedin. The results of the pilot will be evaluated.
Corrections has contracted Emerge Aotearoa, Pillars, Pact, Rural Canterbury PHO and WellSouth PHO to provide staff to work with prisoners and offenders.
Counsellors and social workers are already working at the country’s three women’s prisons to support women with mental health challenges.
“Many female prisoners struggle with issues around current and historical trauma, and family,” says Ms Upston
“By addressing their needs, we would expect a reduction in both harm and reoffending, and an improvement in their ability to cope on release.”
The Supported Living service will work with offenders with highly complex mental illness and/or cognitive impairment to access accommodation and support services on release from prison as they transition back into the community.
The Wrap Around Family/Whānau Support initiative connects children and families of prisoners and community-based offenders with mental illness with community services to improve their social, health and education outcomes.
Corrections received $14 million from the Justice Sector fund last year to boost its mental health services.
For more information on better mental health for offenders go to: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/strategic_reports/investing_in_better_mental_health_for_offenders.html
Corrections Minister Louise Upston says an initiative between Corrections and Horticulture New Zealand is proving beneficial to the department’s goal of turning offenders’ lives around.
Following the successful first year of a pilot programme in Hawke’s Bay that was established to help ex-prisoners and community-based offenders find sustainable employment in the horticulture industry, Corrections and Horticulture New Zealand are now looking to expand the initiative into the Bay of Plenty.
The agreement supports training packages that help prisoners become work-ready for employers and offer permanent career opportunities in horticulture to prisoners once released.
“This initiative has been a win-win and Corrections is appreciative of the support and leadership provided by the horticulture sector, which is helping change the lives of offenders and providing renewed hope for their families,” Ms Upston says.
“The pilot provides practical training for eligible prisoners who want a career in horticulture and will stay within the Hawke’s Bay area upon release. It allows prisoners to leave prison with meaningful skills and qualifications, it provides the industry with trained and qualified employees that will help fill continued labour shortages which will in turn benefit the community.
“Three ex-offenders have found employment through this partnership in the horticulture industry to date. While the number of placements appears small, new individual employer partnership agreements have been signed with four other large horticulture employers who want to support this initiative,” Ms Upston says.
Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry with a turnover of $5 billion. The industry has set itself a target of achieving an industry value of $10 billion by the year 2020. To achieve this target, the industry will need to attract a significant number of trained and qualified horticultural staff to fill a recognised shortage in permanent roles across the country, but especially around the East Coast, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Northland, Manawatu, Nelson/ Marlborough, and Central Otago.
The Government has joined the West Coast region to launch the Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Development Action Plan in Hokitika today.
The Action Plan identifies five priorities for lifting economic growth - better economic development support, growing the West Coast visitor economy, making it easier to invest and do business, supporting economic diversification, and improving connectivity and infrastructure.
“The Government is committed to supporting the West Coast economy to grow and become more resilient. That’s why we’re partnering with the region through this Action Plan to invest up to $36.8 million in areas like tourism, ICT and primary industries,” Mr Bridges says.
“This includes $11 million for a new Regional Research Institute that will use innovative research and manufacturing techniques to unlock the potential of New Zealand’s minerals resources.
“As part of the 2016 Growth Study, opportunities were identified in sectors that could provide future employment. This is now the catalyst for implementing a number of projects including investing in growing the Coast’s digital economy.
“Connectivity, and enabling people and businesses to make the most of this connectivity, is vital for the region to grow, and to attract and retain digital businesses, entrepreneurs and skills,” Mr Bridges says.
“The West Coast’s natural resources and its microclimates are encouraging a number of niche primary sector initiatives which are outlined in the action plan,” Ms Upston says.
“We want to see if we can grow these industries into something bigger as they could provide substantial future employment opportunities.”
Ms Upston said whitebaiting is iconic to the West Coast and there are only a few commercial whitebait operations.
“An initiative in the Plan will look at potential risks to the sustainability of whitebaiting, as well as at protecting spawning sites. This work has the long term goal of developing a sustainable wild whitebait fishery on the West Coast,” Ms Upston says
In addition, the government will look at options to change legislation enabling ongoing access to timber on Public Conservation Land that is felled as a result of natural events.
Another initiative will explore using a social enterprise approach to developing new opportunities for horticulture, food and beverage in Karamea, and potentially throughout the region.
The implementation of the Plan will be overseen by the West Coast Regional Growth Governance Group with support from central government’s Regional Growth Programme.