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Volunteer support for Māori prisoners appreciated

For Immediate Release 19 June 2008

Volunteer support for Māori prisoners appreciated

The contributions of the 180 Kaiwhakamana throughout New Zealand’s prisons are being celebrated by Corrections this week, along with the efforts of other volunteers who work with prisoners.

As part of National Volunteer Awareness week, the Department is hosting a series of events to thank the 3,000 volunteers up and down the country who give up their spare time to visit, support and mentor prisoners.

National Volunteer co-ordinator Russell Underwood says the number of people giving up their spare time to make a difference to the rehabilitation of a prisoner is increasing.

“The contribution volunteers such as Kaiwhakamana make to Corrections is important, and their work is much appreciated, by staff, prisoners and whānau alike,” he says.

Succeeding for Māori offenders is a priority strategic focus for the Department and assisting Māori to promote the wellness and wellbeing of their own people helps to reduce reoffending by Māori.

Support provided to prisoners by Kaiwhakamana aims to reconnect offenders with their culture. This can include assisting prisoners identify and make contact with their iwi, hāpu and whānau; helping prisoners trace their whakapapa and learn the tikanga of their iwi; providing spiritual support to offenders, and preparing them for reintegration back into the community. Kaiwhakamana also provide advice to the Department where necessary on the provision of services to Māori.

“The Kaiwhakamana role allows respected Māori in the community to assist with prisoners needs and be positive role models to them,” says Russell.

“This provides prisoners with support that connects them in a spiritual sense, and helps prisoners on their paths to an offence free lifestyle on release”.

Russell says the support that all volunteers provide prisoners is vital to their rehabilitation.

“Volunteers contribute a great deal to prisoners. Organisations like Prison Fellowship New Zealand and Toastmasters provide prisoners with communication skills while building their confidence at the same time. Others like Alcoholics Anonymous who have been involved with the Department for 20 years, provide ongoing support and education to prisoners to help them combat their addiction.

I would encourage anyone who is thinking of volunteering to get in touch and see the difference volunteering in prison can make to someone’s life.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer in prison should contact Corrections at volunteering@corrections.govt.nz

ENDS

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