Prison Prison CREDIT: ADAC

Reintegration units will revolutionise society - yeah right!

Friday 26 August 2011, 5:19PM

According to Associate Corrections Minister, Dr Pita Sharples, Whare Oranga Ake is a "unique institution which is going to revolutionise our society, and reform the way New Zealand, and the world, reintegrates offenders into our communities.”

Dream on! Whare Oranga Ake a self-care unit designed to assist Maori prisoners reintegrate into the community at the end of their sentences. Two units have just been built with 16 beds each at Hawkes Bay and Auckland prisons. Next year the intention is to double their capacity to 32 beds each – at a total cost of $20 million.

Outside the prison wire

Dr Sharples thinks these self-care units are unique because the operating philosophy will be based on Maori values and principles. What’s really different about them is that they’re built outside the prison wire – but still on prison grounds! So prisoners have to be minimum security, and eligible to work at jobs in the community to get into them.

The problem is there's already a similar self-care unit with 20 beds at the Northland Regional Corrections Facility (NRCF). This unit opened in June 2007 with eight prisoners, but closed only nine months later. Why? Because soon after it opened, the Department toughened up its risk classification system. The new system is so rigorous, there are now very few prisoners classified as minimum risk - in 2010, Departmental documents indicated there were only 113 prisoners (out of 8,900) allowed to work outside the wire.

Down the drain

The self-care unit at NCRF cost $11 million. If the Department’s security classification system also prevents prisoners moving into the Whare Oranga Ake units planned by Mr Sharples, that will be another $20 million down the drain.

Dr Sharples grandiose claims that Whare Oranga Ake will revolutionise society demonstrates the extraordinary disconnect between statements put out by those at the head of Corrections and what actually goes on in our prison system. It’s all part of Corrections’ campaign of misinformation.

For details about this and other fancy fairy tales propagated by the Corrections Department read Roger Brooking's expose:  Flying Blind - How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct.