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Ground breaking website for children of prisoners launched

7 December 2010

An innovative website, developed in New Zealand, is the first of its kind in the world.

The interactive website, Just Us, is for children of prisoners, their caregivers and professionals and was developed by PILLARS, a community-based organisation that supports children of prisoners in New Zealand

“Just Us has the potential to attract a wide international audience despite its unique New Zealand focus,” says PILLARS chief executive Verna McFelin.

“It is the only website of its kind in the world that includes a virtual prison and where children can ask questions and access information specific to their needs. The Just Us website is a child-friendly way PILLARS can provide support and information to children who often feel isolated.”

All Black Brad Thorn, a PILLARS ambassador, launched the website last week at a function in Christchurch.

“Children of prisoners are six to seven times more likely to end up in prison than other New Zealand children,” he said at the launch.

Being blessed with his own upbringing and with four children of his own, he said he wanted to do something to help other children.

“I can play a part in keeping kids out of trouble and breaking this cycle of crime,” he said.

The Department of Corrections has come on board to print posters and information cards promoting Just Us that will be distributed to prison visit rooms and schools around New Zealand.

Click for big version

All Black Brad Thorn with PILLARS chief executive Verna McFelin at the launch of Just Us, an innovative and interactive website for children of prisoners.

“It’s a fantastic initiative and we thought that helping produce these materials and circulate them around our prisons was one way of helping PILLARS with this amazing project,” says Rachel Leota, Manager, Service Development of Prison Services.

“We are really impressed with Just Us. It’s very approachable for people of all ages, not just children but community groups or schools, and will also benefit a lot of young people.”

Just Us, www.justus.org.nz, features a town called Just Us and a character called Justin who leads the children through a variety of places, including a prison, friend’s house and court house so they can find out more about what they might expect in their situation.

Children can write their own diaries, hear stories from other prisoners’ children, write a letter to their parent in prison or have their questions answered.

PILLARS will monitor the content to make sure every question is answered and additions can easily be added as needed.

PILLARS also provides mentoring for children, social work services for parents/caregivers and provides training and support for professionals working with these children such as school teachers.


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