Prison Fellowship National Director Kim Workman is supportive of the approach that Jack Harrison, Manager of the new Otago Corrections Facility, is on the right track.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sad day when a new prison opens Ã¢â‚¬â€œ one always prays that the staff, management and the community are going to make it a place where there is an opportunity for offenders to be transformed into useful social beings.
I have taken the opportunity to talk with management and staff, and local community about the new prison, and have been most impressed with Jack HarrisonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vision for the place.
Firstly, management understand that a key measure of a successful prison is the extent to which the community, business, and volunteers interact with it, and normalize the environment. They are already actively working with business and community interests to equip prisoners with skills and jobs when they leave. I have never seen the community as involved in a prison at such an early stage.
Secondly, within the physical layout of the prison and through the prisoner management regime, there is opportunity for trusted prisoners to take personal responsibility for their behaviour. As they gain more trust, they will earn more opportunity to self-manage Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the regime is well thought through, and if well executed, will make a difference.
Thirdly, the quality of staff attracted to the prison is impressive. There are very experienced staff from throughout New Zealand who have transferred to the region, and the calibre of local recruited staff is high.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a real preparedness to try new programmes and services locally, and to tap into local resources and expertise. Excellent prisons are run through creative rather than coercive management.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“No doubt we will have the usual criticism about landscaping and under floor heating. What people need to understand, is that you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t rehabilitate prisoners in an environment where conditions are unpleasant or unduly harsh. It certainly wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen if staff are negative and unsupportive. I recall a slogan in a Singapore prison, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trained to look for the sparkle, not just the flawsÃ¢â‚¬Â. If the staff can continue to look for the sparkle, this could be a winner.Ã¢â‚¬Â