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Family-friendly prisons, whanau re-integration programmes and community services that work: a prescription to reduce re-offending in this generation and.

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Presentation on theme: "Family-friendly prisons, whanau re-integration programmes and community services that work: a prescription to reduce re-offending in this generation and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Family-friendly prisons, whanau re-integration programmes and community services that work: a prescription to reduce re-offending in this generation and stamp out the causes of crime in the next

2 Our research study A partnership between a research company and a community organisation. We interviewed nearly 400 prisoners in nine prisons, including 120 women, over 2 years 2009-2010. They told us about their own backgrounds and families. They told us whether they were parents, and, if so, whether they had contact with their families while in prison. We also interviewed 80 families of prisoners, with a focus on the children (although we only spoke to older children). Finally, we interviewed a range of stakeholders, twice, around the role of the agencies that work with prisoners.

3 Consideration of context At the time of the study, prison numbers were increasing quite fast, driven by policies of increasing number and length of prison sentences. Since then, over the past 18 months, there has been a policy change towards diverting people from prison and working to prevent re-offending. Instead of reaching the predicted 12,500 in prison, the numbers have stagnated to around 8,500 – with a goal of a 25% reduction in re-offending by 2017.

4 Making our research more important We do not claim that our research has caused the policy changes that we have seen. But the fact of our research taking place in a period of significant changes in policy and practice, and that we identified policies as needing to change, means that it has been in high demand. We have given more than 20 seminars over the past three years to social workers, health professionals, education groups, Māori groups, Corrections Officers, five Departments or Ministries, two multi-departmental gatherings, three conferences….

5 Our findings The focus of our study was on what we called ‘inter generational recidivism’ – the process whereby the children of prisoners became more likely to end up in prison. Using figures from the Christchurch CHDS longitudinal study, we found that the children of prisoners were seven times more likely than other children to end up in prison. Among the prisoners were interviewed, many had childhood experiences of family members being in prison. What were the drivers of that? How could it happen? Why didn’t social services prevent this process? What role did justice agencies play ?

6 Main findings of the study Justice agencies: Arrest procedures fail to take into account the needs of the children, and can permanently traumatise or alienate them Whether on remand or after sentence, there is no formal opportunity for children to say goodbye to a parent being taken to prison. They are whisked off immediately as if they have an infectious disease! Parenting roles, communication with families, child visiting and maintaining and developing high quality relationships have not been priorities of the justice system.

7 Main findings of the study Social agencies: Benefit-led families, poverty, stigma and discrimination Schooling, learning, and the downward spiral The normalisation of unhealthy bodies and minds

8 We concluded that…. Our research shows that changing policies and practices in health, education, social services, income support and the agencies of justice (police, courts, prisons) could together eliminate the factors that cause the children of prisoners to become prisoners in the next generation.

9 . There are many examples of good practice from around the world, often small and inexpensive changes that make a major difference to the lives of families. Unfortunately, these steps too often depend on the interest and involvement of individual prison staff or charities/non-governmental organisations (NGOs), rather than institutionalised good policy and practice. Pillars has been working with families of prisoners and advocating for family friendly practices for 25 years.

10 Research that makes a difference. As well as talking to various sectors, we have produced a multi-sector practice manual, and, through discussion and debate, have begun to work on other interventions Tackling call charges, IT communications and visiting centres in prisons. Prisons are consulting Talking with police about keeping children safe during arrests. Police are listening Teacher information packs for schools and teachers. Training requested Health information packs for the primary health sector.

11 An agenda for change. The experience of prison is often one of de-integration from family life and society. This is deliberate and has worrying effects…. “Families play a crucial role in the reintegration of prisoners, offering stability and support of a kind that prisoners may not have access to elsewhere... while they are in prison, a third of prisoners lose their house, two thirds lose their job, a fifth face financial problems, and slightly more than two fifths lose all contact with their family. Services such as housing are often not in place after release; criminal records can hinder the search for employment; incomes may be meagre and debts build rapidly; and in many cases prisoners do not have a bank account or recent credit history, making it even harder to access services”. (Quakers, Social Reintegration of Prisoners in Europe)

12 Moving forward prisoner. In our study every prisoner except one told us that they wanted to be involved in their children’s lives in the future. A model of family reintegration that starts on the first day of sentence, if not before. Incoming prisoners should be interviewed in depth until their family, home, work, finances and all other factors are clearly understood. Individual plan for each prisoner incorporating family involvement including family referral to community agency.

13 Moving forward family Need to restore, maintain or strengthen family/whanau relationship beginning and during the sentence Phone and online community support available. Web support and Sesame Street’s “Little Children Big Challenges” Information Packages from Arrest through to Post Release Social work and practical support; and children’s mentoring by qualified social workers and trained, screened, vetted and supervisied volunteers. Whanau ora type service using Strengthening Families Initiative Care and protection of children always paramount

14 Institutional context. In order to bring about change, decades of poor practice needs to be overcome. There is too much discretion in individual prisons to ensure system-wide change. Much stronger leadership is required, at least in the initial stages. Five main institutional challenges: Family and community focused prisons reflecting life in the community as closely as possible. Prisons as learning environments fostering individual development and personal responsibility Looking further than the prisoner to the whanau package Prisons as places to make better people, not worse Meet the challenges of the technological age

15 Working with family/whanau. Individual tasks involve three things: resolving the wrongs, learning new skills and connections, and becoming a better person. At the heart of the model is a process of restorative justice, which is not merely about resolving past wrongs but about learning new skills for the future. Prisons would become restorative institutions (much like some schools). Education and work opportunities for all. This also includes undertaking responsibilities such as parenting and self- care. By living and working within a just prison community, prepare to take one’s place in society

16 Leadership/ political issues. Clear articulation of the purposes of prison Aim to reduce prison population by 50% over 3-4 years Development of new community sentences as sole punishment for all non-violent offenders Entwine punishment with restoration: e.g. fraudsters doing gardening for those elderly people they have defrauded. Overcome stigma and discrimination against prisoners. Particularly to recognise the extent to which NZ imprisons its indigenous people (the highest rate in the world) and act to overcome that.

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