Corrections centre pledged for region

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012

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A leading-edge corrections centre to educate Taranaki prisoners, get them off drugs and alcohol and find them jobs will be built in the region.

Corrections Department boss Ray Smith is promising to pour money into the project, following the decision to close New Plymouth Prison in March next year.

The department intends to set up the country's first community-based and supported reintegration centre within the next 12 months, Mr Smith said.

It will coincide with the opening of the new New Plymouth police station where a remand hub would also be built, Mr Smith told the Taranaki Daily News.

Both the remand hub, which would allow family visits, and the reintegration centre would be firsts for New Zealand.

"I'm very keen to get this up as a new model. I want to get those prisoners from Taranaki in good rehabilitative programmes. What I want is prisoners to be able to attend programmes and treatment units where they can come out better than when they went in."

Mr Smith said the Taranaki centre was part of the drive to reduce reoffending nationwide by 25 per cent. To do this $65 million will be spent over the next four years.

Money would also be saved from the prison closure.

"For those prisoners who are going to struggle the most to reintegrate back into the community there, I want this reintegration centre to support them coming back into the community and make sure we wrap good community organisations and iwi-based organisations around them to make sure they do well."

The goal has the full support of the Salvation Army and Taranaki iwi cultural and rehabilitation group, Te Oranga O Pukaka.

Te Oranga O Pukaka secretary Maata Wharehoka said yesterday her group was fully supportive of the new centre and its aim to reduce the recidivist rate.

It was well known that many prisoners were back reoffending soon after being released, Mrs Wharehoka said.

Reintegration with the community and families would help give them some stability on their return.

"I would be so bold as to say that it would play an exceedingly important role in bringing Maori community together."

With the knowledge that 53 per cent of inmates were Maori "then you would expect we would have a contribution to make to the way programmes are operated and ensure Maori issues are being addressed because at the moment they are not".

Salvation Army social policy director Major Campbell Roberts yesterday said the army was supportive of the reintegration move.

Mr Smith said decisions were still to be made on where the centre would be located in Taranaki.

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The current reoffending rate was unsatisfactory, he said.

Mr Smith said two-thirds of prisoners had drug and alcohol problems.

And within the first 12 months of release, 27 per cent of prisoners returned to prison.

Recent extensive investment in drug and alcohol treatment programmes in prisons were working and had resulted in a 10 to 30 per cent reduction in reoffending rates among the participants, he said.

"If we treat them all and get them into programmes that are appropriate we have a much better chance of them holding a job down."

- Taranaki Daily News

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