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Community Support the Key for Released Prisoners

Community Support the Key for Released Prisoners

The concern about Bailey Junior Kuariki’s impending release highlights the lack of resources available to support released prisoners, said Kim Workman, Project Leader for the Rethinking Crime and Punishment Project.

“There are 9000 prisoners released from prison every year. A few will return to a stable home and family, and a job, and pick up their lives where they left off. Some will return to a criminal lifestyle, with no interest in changing for the better. But there are a great number who will leave the prison, determined to change their lives, but with out the necessary support to make that happen. This significant group will reduce re-offending if they can be helped with relationship issues, with finance, housing and employment, and a family who have suffered in the absence of the breadwinner. Their families will have suffered during their absence. Many of these offenders are both a liability and an asset – the strengths they bring to relationships often outweigh their shortcomings.”

“Providing ‘wrap around” support for released prisoners can make a significant difference to their offending behaviour – the evidence shows that if they have the right level of support in the first six months, reoffending rates can drop by anywhere from 15% to 40%, over two years.

Prison Fellowship has been providing prisoners with trained mentors and volunteer support for over three years, and the results have been very encouraging. Prisoners Aid and the Salvation Army provide supported accommodation in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Unfortunately, prisoner reintegration has fallen off the ‘Effective Interventions “ agenda, and very little money is available to support agencies with the capability to provide reintegration services. The Department of Corrections reintegration strategy, developed in 2004, still effectively stops at the prison gate.

Informal social control and support from the community is the key to effective prisoner reintegration. Community organisations should be funded to meet the needs of prisoners and their families.

ends

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