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Work with families vital - Robson In Aussie

13 July 2000 Media Statement

Work with families vital: Minister visits Aussie prisons


Programs and approaches taken by Australian youth prisons and prisons for female offenders are worth considering in New Zealand, says Minister of Corrections, Matt Robson.

He is visiting a range of prison facilities in Perth and Melbourne while attending the international Corrective Services Ministers' Conference in Australia. Yesterday he visited Banksia Hill Detention Centre, which is one of Australia's newest juvenile detention centre.

"There is no doubt that keeping young offenders separate from adults is working, but the best prison programs in the world aren’t going to stop these kids returning one day to dysfunctional family situations.

"Australia shares this problem. In New Zealand I believe we must emphasise our post-release work as much as our work in the prisons. We have to start working with family groups if we’re serious about tackling re-offending.

"We recently opened a new youth unit at Waikeria prison. This was the second specialist youth unit in New Zealand, and I hope to be in a position soon to open more."

10% of inmates in the 1997 Prison Census in New Zealand were aged between 15 and 19 years old, with a further 23% aged between 20 and 24.

Matt Robson also visited Nyandi Women's Prison , Western Australia's first minimum security prison for women.

"We have an urgent need in New Zealand to improve our approach to female offenders. That can be as simple as making sure we have enough appropriate facilities to house female inmates. That is why I'm looking at the possibility of a new female prison in Auckland. But more importantly we need to make sure that what we do inside these prisons increases our chances of reducing re-offending.

"At Nyandi the women work in the local old people's home, and have mobile work camps which carry out other essential community work. These work groups are in huge demand, and the women feel like they are returning something to the community.

"The prison also has a mother and baby unit for babies up to twelve months old, and a small self-care unit where children over twelve months can visit with their mother over night. I spoke to some of the kids, who were delighted to be with mum. And the mums live for these visits.

"The prison director told me that few of these women return to prison. Strengthening the family is helping to reduce re-offending," says Matt Robson.

ENDS

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