Tomorrow’s Prisons document catalyst for conversations
Tomorrow’s Prisons document catalyst for conversations about reducing exploding female prison population
5 April 2018 For immediate release
Annah Stretton, the founder of a social venture that works with recidivist female offenders, says she wants to work closely with Corrections to begin reducing New Zealand’s exploding female prison population.
Ms Stretton has sent Reclaim Another Woman’s (RAW) new Tomorrow’s Prisons document to Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis saying the document can be a catalyst to reduce the female prison population.
The Tomorrow’s Prisons document is timely after media reports about Corrections not foreseeing the recent, rapid rise in the female prison population.
The document outlines how prison can be used as a “circuit breaker” to the behaviour that landed the offenders in prison in the first place.
Ms Stretton said the inspiration for the document was a focus group held in February that saw seven RAW women and two Department of Corrections staff talk about bold initiatives that aim to improve outcomes and understanding for women on the inside; reduce the prison return rate, and ensure women are released ready to truly reintegrate into the community.
Tomorrow’s Prisons states that to achieve real change female prisoners need to go through a disciplined and non-negotiable process in prison.
“While we are not suggesting prisons become boot camps, a high focus on healthy, disciplined living will have huge benefits in the prisons,” said Ms Stretton.
“We see Tomorrow’s Prisons as non-negotiable learning institutions run in a structured manner that bridges the gaps in basic education, provide vocational training and basic life skills for a family home, and promote healthy living.”
RAW works with female offenders to replace amplifying criminal activity with scholarshipped education and negotiated work.
“To date we have had 36 offenders through the RAW model and not one has gone back to prison,” Ms Stretton said.
“While Corrections’ Wahine – E rere ana ki te Pae Hou: Women's Strategy 2017 - 2021 document outlines the female prison demographic as well as some of the challenges that attach to these women, it does not provide solutions to get the 25% reduction in reoffending we, as a society, are all looking for or that incarcerated women and their families deserve,” Ms Stretton said.
“Continuing to do what has always been done and expecting a 25% improvement in reoffending is ultimately the definition of insanity. To reduce the exploding growth in the female prison population and effect reduced recidivist behaviour requires a change.”
The RAW women in February’s focus group pointed out that as their criminal activity escalated, prison was the one thing that interrupted their offending.
“While imprisonment may have taken them away from their tamariki and whanau it was a necessary part of the ‘possible’ journey of change – the circuit breaker.
“RAW has found a pathway for incarcerated women who genuinely want to change their lives and this initiative outlines both RAW’s perspective and speaks on behalf of the RAW women for change to begin within the prison system.
“We want women out in our community, not in some paved compound.”