Praise for prisoner support initiative

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012

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A community leader is urging full support for a leading-edge prisoners' rehabilitation centre in New Plymouth.

The centre was signalled when the announcement was made that the ageing New Plymouth Prison would close early next year.

The Anglican Bishop of Taranaki, Philip Richardson, was fiercely critical of the Government's decision to close the prison without building a replacement.

Taranaki prisoners would be separated from their families, he said.

This could only make it more difficult for them to reintegrate into their communities on their release, leading to a higher likelihood of offending.

But yesterday the bishop praised the Corrections Department's commitment to develop a world-leading re-integration centre in New Plymouth.

The department's Lower North Island regional manager, Karen Petrie, confirmed plans for the centre yesterday.

The department was working with interested service providers to establish it, she said.

Bishop Richardson said the reintegration centre would go some way to addressing his concerns.

"If it works I hope that women from Taranaki might be provided with something similar.

"I think it's a quite innovative and cutting-edge approach."

From what he had been told, the intention was to draw on the best overseas studies and research.

"It is beholden on us all to try and support this as wholeheartedly as we can."

At the end of the day, it was in the whole community's interests to reduce the potential for crime.

He understood that the inmates would be given three months of structured reintegration.

As such, the programme had the potential to be ground-breaking, the bishop said.

Ms Petrie said the department would run the monitored trial programme, which was aimed at supporting released prisoners to integrate back into their community.

The prisoners - up to eight at a time - would be provided with short-term accommodation.

While there, they would get assistance into training and employment, and any support and services necessary to address any issues which could be barriers to a crime-free life.

This might include issues such as drug and alcohol problems, Ms Petrie said.

"Offenders will be supported to learn the skills necessary to lead a crime-free and self-sufficient life - such as securing and maintaining accommodation and employment, and reconnecting with whanau, family and the wider community," she said.

The programme was part of the strategy to reduce re-offending by 25 per cent over the next five years.

"Our experience is those placed in work are less likely to reoffend," Ms Petrie said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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