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Prison Fellowship Seeks Answers Overseas

30 January 2005

“Prison Fellowship is seeking wide community discussion on Law and Order issues," said Kim Workman, National Director of Prison Fellowship New Zealand. He leaves today with the Minister of Corrections, the Hon Damien O’Connor, and Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust on a fact finding tour of England, Netherlands and Finland.

Prison Fellowship New Zealand operates the successful faith-based prison at Rimutaka, and a mentor –based prisoner after care program. It also runs restorative justice programs within the prisons, and provides training for 2,700 prison volunteers nationally.

A Christian organisation, Board members include such high profile members as the Right Revd Sir Paul Reeves, former Commissioner of Police, John Jamieson, and former Race Relationships Conciliator, Greg Fortuin.

Kim Workman said that he was grateful to the Minister for giving him the opportunity to look first hand at some of the more progressive nations, and to share that information when he returns. “Prison Fellowship is holding a national conference in May, in an effort to advance public understanding of the issues. This visit will contribute to that Conference.”

“The prison population in New Zealand has increased by 50% in the last eight years. If this continues, we will be spending more on prisons than on education. It is time to widen the public discussion, and actively involve the community in taking a close look at the issues, and deciding what sort of society it wants. Not just politicians and lobbyists – Iwi, Maori, academics, criminal justice providers, the judiciary, policy analysts, victims, all have a part to play. We have to move beyond political and ideological boundaries and agendas, and start talking to one another. Only then, can we develop a long-term strategy that will make the necessary difference.

Nelson Mandela once said, ‘No one truly knows a nation until he has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but how it treats its lowest ones.’

On that measure, New Zealand has some way to go.


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