Hunt on for reformed ex-prisoners

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2013

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It might be the last thing a reformed criminal wants to hear - the Corrections Department is on your trail.

It's keen to track down young former prisoners who have successfully turned their lives around, in the hope that they can help others to follow the straight and narrow.

The department has tendered for a third party to find 50 former high-risk inmates who have not reoffended for at least three years, despite having being assessed as being likely to do so.

It wants to find out what has kept the young people, aged between 17 to 20 at the time of their imprisonment and who had been in jail more than once, out of prison since, and how they can help current and future prisoners do the same.

The successful tenderer will be given a list of 80 names, including the most recent contact details for each former prisoner.

It is hoped at least 50 will be found, and will agree to an hour-long interview for which they will be paid $50.

Anyone who agrees to be interviewed will not have their names revealed in any information provided back to the department. This is to ensure honest responses, including whether the person has committed a crime since being released but has not been caught.

The department's research and evaluation director Peter Johnston said it was hoped the research could add to changes being made to the way prisoners were assisted in reintegrating into the community.

Most young offenders who were sent to jail never returned, but a small hardcore group who committed serious crimes had a 90 per cent chance of being locked up again within five years of release.

The main difficulty would be finding the former prisoners and convincing them to take part in research, something that was much easier to do while they were in jail.

"We've got them, literally, as a captive population," he said.

Anyone who believed they were eligible for the survey could also contact the department directly to take part, he said.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman was positive about the research, saying the last significant similar piece of work was done in the early 1990s.

That had shown it was usually a significant person in an offender's life, such as a partner, who stopped them reoffending. Other reasons were religious or cultural beliefs, or having something such as a sport or activity to focus on.

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- The Dominion Post

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