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More Prisoner Surveillance wont Stem Drug Flow

Prison Fellowship of New Zealand: Increased Prisoner Surveillance wont Stem Drug Flow

“Spending taxpayer money on additional prison surveillance won’t stem drug flow”, says National Director of Prison Fellowship New Zealand.

His comments follow on from a call by Simon Power MP, for increased surveillance, after Paul Monk, Prisons General Manager, revealed that 17% of 3,000 inmates tested positively for drugs.

Mr Workman compared the department’s overall result to the second year results for the faith bsed unit at Rimutaka Prison. Of the 47 faith based unit prisoners tested as part of the national random drug testing regime, only one tested positive. That’s 2.15% compared to 17% nationally.

You have to ask why there is such a difference in the results. It’s no more difficult to get drugs into the faith based unit, (a low medium - minimum security) than it is into any other unit. The range and seriousness of their offending is the same as for other sikilar units. And we know that about 80% of the men in that unit have drug and alcohol issues, which is about par for the course.

Setting aside the international evidence that faith reduces offending, and that the men who volunteer for the unit are by and large committed to change, there are other factors that come into play. The Corrections and Prison Fellowship staff in the unit have worked to introduce a culture in which the:

• All participants are involved in transformative programs on a regular basis. Apart from the biblical teaching, the program includes teaching on interpersonal skills, parenting, goal setting, and relationaship issues, • Participants are confronted with the harm their actions have caused others – - their families, their friends, and the wider community - and that includes drug and alcohol dependency

• The unit culture encourages work and productive activity. The Ombudsmans report that enforced idleness leads to increased drug use is absolutely right. Within departmental constraints, all inmates are encouraged to work, and to engage in recreational, cultural and intellectual activity. Volunteers come into the unit to take music and choir, art, and similar activity. We have a small but developing library. Tapes and videos relating to religious and personal development are available.

• There is ongoing personal support through the provision of pastoral and personal counselling, a structured one-on-one mentoring program, and ongoing post-release support through trained mentors and churches.

• Most importantly, the unit’s values and culture make it clear that drug’s are a “no-no”. Daily accountability meetings mean that positive and managed peer pressure encourages a culture where potential or suspected users are actively discouraged by other inmates, and turned toward positive activity.

In Mr Workman’s view money spent on increased surveillance, would more profitable be spend on rehabilitative programs, inmate employment an constructive activity.

What we need to encourage is a prison culture in which there is low tolerance of anti-social behaviour, high prisoner accountability, and a culture in which positive activity is valued, and the wider community is actively engaged as role models who present alternatives to gang and criminal behaviour.”

It doesn’t have to cost a lot more money. There are currently 2,700 approved prison volunteers. Given the opportunity, they would be willing to teach life skills, positively encourage good behaviour, and provide essential social support when they are released. We need to harness available community resources, and introduce a regime of increased rehabilitative and transformative programs and other activity, so that the men and women released from prison are at the very least, no worse than when they went in. At present, the prison experience is more likely than not to increase the likelihood of future offending

New Zealanders need to remember that about 85% of all the people inprison today, will be out within the next two years. They end up as neighbours. We need to make an investment now, if we want to reduce the number of crime victims in the future.

© Scoop Media

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