Helping ex-prisoners find their feet

Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
Murray Young

FULFILLING ROLE: Murray Young mentors ex-prisoners through PARS and says it’s rewarding helping to prevent people from making mistakes.

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Murray Young likes to keep an open mind in life.

The Glendene resident uses the trait to "find good in everybody" and has taken the approach with mentoring ex-prisoners and helping reintegrate them into the community.

Mr Young volunteers with PARS, an organisation dedicated to helping more than 2000 prisoners a year find accommodation, open bank accounts and improve connections to support networks.

Mr Young is a mentor to former prisoner Hare and says his main focus is to show him a normal way of life so he can stay out of a cell.

"If I can contribute to keeping someone out of jail, I've done my job," Mr Young says.

"There's good in everybody, you just have to find it."

Hare spent several years in prison and was released back into society this year without the skills to cope with the changes his sentence had on his life. He found simple tasks like catching a bus, using an eftpos card and computer difficult.

Hare says Mr Young's help gave him confidence to be a part of society.

"I didn't want to be released," he says.

"I was afraid of being scared, lonely, depressed and I had plans of going back inside because it was more comfortable.

"There were things to do and people always around," he says.

It's a common trait among prisoners with many facing isolation, restrictions and barriers. Having a mentor helps former inmates to stay out, showing there's life after prison. PARS assisted Hare through its supported accommodation service which helped with approved housing and advocacy with Work and Income.

Mr Young also helped Hare with job seeking, working on his interview skills and taught him to cook.

Hare says the best advice from his mentor is to "stay calm, be relaxed, love life and take things one step at a time".

Mr Young, a former member of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, says it's rewarding contributing to a person's life that was taken away because of mistakes made.

PARS executive director Tui Ah Loo says ex-prisoners, mentors and the community all benefit from the service.

Call 947 6185 or email ruthp@pars.co.nz to become a mentor.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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