Minister jeered at new drug treatment centre

BY WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 15:16 24/06/2010

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Corrections Minister Judith Collins was greeted with jeering from prisoners as she walked through the Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) to open its new drug treatment unit today.

From beyond the cell windows inmates shouted, "You’ll be out at the next elections", as Collins made her way to the newly built unit. She was flanked by Corrections CEO Barry Matthews, Corrections assistant area manager Ants Howie, and heads of drug and alcohol rehabilitation company Care NZ which would deliver the programme.

A crowd of about 70 at the opening of the O-shaped unit, next to the Weka cell block, however, gave Collins a warmer welcome.

The seventh drug treatment centre in the country, the OCF facility was the first of three new units, the others to be built in Auckland and Wanganui in 2011, Collins said.

The units would deliver an intensive three-month course. The course comprised the same hours as the current six-month programme.

Collins said the treatments were all about reduction of reoffending rates. More than half inmates in New Zealand prisons had drug and alcohol related problems. These were seen as a significant factor in reoffending.

The new shorter programme was aimed at younger short-term prisoners so they didn’t go on to a lifetime of drug or alcohol addiction, she said.

The opening of the unit showed the Government was delivering on its promise to double the number of prisoners receiving drug and alcohol treatments . Numbers would double from 500 to 1000 across New Zealand.Around 180 annually would use the OCF unit, she said.

Mathews said the programme was available to all prisoners.

The introduction of double bunking at OCF earlier this year increased the unit’s importance, as inmate numbers rose from 335 to 480 and it was necessary to deliver more services to match.

The unit would be operated by rehabilitation specialists CARENZ which had had a partnership with Corrections since 1988.

The unit’s manager Vicky Frost said counselors and programme facilitators from a diverse range of backgrounds would deliver the courses.

A group of 13 prisoners had already successfully completed the three-month course even before construction of the unit was finished, and were due to graduate tomorrow.

Eventually four groups would be on the course at any one time, with 15 in each group, she said.

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