Transcript of Rebecca and Moses talking about their work as senior corrections officers
Hi. I'm Rebecca. I'm a senior corrections officer at Arohata Women's Prison.
I'm Moses Mose, and I'm a corrections officer at Rimutaka Prison.
Rebecca: Before I started at Corrections, I was a nanny, which was great, because I had two young children of my own. So it really fit in well my life. But what I really wanted was job security, and I wasn't finding that with nannying. So I came across an advertisement in the newspaper for Corrections. I filled in the application form and, yeah, got the ball rolling.
Moses: I was a builder's labourer before I came. I saw something stable for me financially and a career, a good career, obviously.
Rebecca: Going out into the compound with the prisoners - I mean, guys have tattoos on their faces, and that kind of stuff was a bit scary. But as I went through the day and mingled with them and was able to talk to them, I did feel a lot more at ease. I've always felt safe in my job. I've always felt supported by my colleagues.
Moses: Beforehand, I thought it was just the keys, and ticking off, making sure everyone's asleep. When I realised that you had to start motivating the prisoners to do programmes, engage with them. Some of them just want to talk, talk about their life. A good five minutes of your time, that's all it takes. And you realise they're grateful for that and they remember that.
Rebecca: The best parts of the job is when you do a whole lot of work with a prisoner, and they come up to you and thank you for being there for them. Also, seeing a prisoner walk out the gate after doing their sentence and knowing that they're not going to come back, because they worked so hard to change, and knowing that you were a part of that.
Transcript of Quenten talking about his work as a probation officer
Hi. My name is Quenten, and I'm a probation officer. So I was a sales rep before I became a probation officer.
I found out through a mate who was a probation officer at the time.
He told me how he had changed someone's life. He said how it felt to him. He's been able to see this guy. He sees him every day now. And he's working. His family is doing quite well. And he's doing good for himself.
And I guess the thing he said that struck him was, the guy came up to him and actually thanked him - shook his hand and said, thanks for everything you've done for me, my life is in a better place because of you. That's something I'd never experienced and that's something I want to experience. And I have, and it's a good feeling.
The communication is number one. That's where my previous job comes through in sales. I like to think I have a nice tone when I talk to people, and a nice personality.
The biggest motivation for me was helping people. I always knew that it was something that I wanted to do, and especially to help my Pacific Island people.
We deal with a lot of Pacific and Maori people that are offenders. I understand where they're coming from. I know the protocols and things like that. Growing up in that kind of environment that a lot of the offenders have been in, it was something that I felt that maybe it was my duty to help out having come through the other end, yeah.
Transcript of Conan and Barbara talking about their work as case managers
Hi, my name is Conan, and I'm a case manager at Rimutaka prison.
Hi, my name is Barbara, and I'm a case manager.
Conan: I was working in parking. Family situation changed, I had one addition coming on the way, and I decided to apply for Corrections.
Barbara: I was working as a caregiver in a rest home. And I'd been there quite a while. And it was really an awesome job. But then one day, I saw this advert for Corrections in the local newspaper, and I looked at it, and I thought, don't know, but I reckon I could do that.
I know when I do come to work and I'm working with the prisoners, that I am making a difference. Yeah, every day. It happened to me yesterday, and hopefully it'll happen again tomorrow. That's what really keeps me going.
Conan: If I can change someone's life, just that little bit, and improve their lives, and their families lives, I'm happy. That's what gets me up in the morning.
Transcript of Jeena talking about her work as a programme facilitator
Hi my name is Jeena Jansen. I'm a programme facilitator from the Department of Corrections. Before I was working for Corrections, I was working in sport with youth and children. Rather than just babysitting them, I was trying to empower them and build their confidence and show them that they can do the things that they've been told their whole lives they can't do. And I found that really rewarding and really motivating.
But I needed more, I needed to find a group in the community that had more need. So I started looking for, ok, where's the need, where's the need. Where can I really make a difference? And then a job came up at Corrections.
And I thought, oh, I don't know if I'm going to be good enough for something like that, but I'll give it a go, see what happens. And so I did. I applied for the job, then. I didn't think my background was suitable for this kind of role because all I knew was sports and kids.
Behaviour management actually turned out to be really helpful because behaviour management with a group of ten people is really important, and being strengths focused rather than focusing on the negatives, because they've had that their whole lives.
So if you're someone who's really passionate about making a difference in people's lives and really want to make changes where there's a need in the community, then this is definitely the job for you.
Transcript of Sam talking about his work as an instructor
Kia ora. My Name is Sam McLean. I'm a horticulture instructor for offender employment.
I had my own landscaping business, and I was working right throughout the Wellington region. And due to circumstances, I had to sell it. So I was still interested in that type of work, and then I saw an advertisement for an instructor's role with Corrections Inmate Employment, back then, CIE. At the end of the day I thought well ok, I'll give it a go and then maybe there's something I can contribute there.
You have an opportunity to actually make a difference to the lives of some of these prisoners, based on your own life skills and transferring your knowledge to these people. And helping them to understand that there is life after crime.
One of my ex-prisoners come up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. And he's got a job that is paying $28 an hour in arboriculture. And he has said to me that if I hadn't had got some sort of training from the time he spent in prison, he would not have secured the work he had secured out there. And he would not be in the position he is in now. And for that guy to come tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, Sam, I'm doing really well." Yeah. That makes it worthwhile.
Transcript of Rebecca and Moses talking about their work as senior corrections officers - extended clip
Rebecca: We do a lot of work with every offender from the moment they come through the door. It's about building relationships with these offenders, being a positive role model, assisting them to get through their sentence, achieve what is set out for them on their offender plan, encouraging and motivating them to attend programmes, to upskill. Being there for support when things go a bit hairy. The biggest thing is working within a team and getting the job done, making sure that everybody goes home safely at the end of the day.
Moses: There's a range of roles for COs in the jail. There's low-medium units, high-medium units, remand, therapy. There's a receiving office. There's at-risk units. There's a Maori focus unit.
Rebecca: So the average day for me: we turn up, we have our keys and radios issued for us. We have a morning briefing so we know what's been happening in the jail. Then, we go down to our unit, do a general unlock. We have breakfast parade, get prisoners off to work, programmes. Throughout the day, we deal with paperwork and making sure the prisoners' issues and needs are met. Then, we lock them down for lunch. At all times, we're doing musters, making sure we know where our prisoners are. Doing our cell searches, doing our cell inspections, interacting with the prisoners if there's anything they need us to tend to, if they've got any issues.
Moses: My background is Samoan. A lot of these guys that are in here, we had similar upbringings and that sort of helped me get along with some of the guys here. It's very important for me as a role model.
Rebecca: The offenders that are in here are not all that bad. They're just other members of society that have done something, and the circumstances have led them to prison. I don't think I've ever had a time where I've felt unsafe, where someone's wanted to kill me or strangle me or hit me over the head. There have been times when things do get a bit ugly, but it's unbelievable how fast the staff are there to support you.
Moses: Moses: I'm grateful to have a job. And, we get to come in and work with guys that I like, I enjoy working with, because I love having a good team. Sometimes, you don't realize you're actually getting paid, and then that rubs off on the units you're working in, or the prisoners. If they see you're happy, all of a sudden, they're happy. 90% of the time, they're happy.
Rebecca: I get to see the change in prisoners. I get to see how elated they are when they pass a course and they bring a certificate and show me how well they've done. I get to be part of their rehabilitation, their path to lead them to a better life.
Moses: To me, it is something you can be proud of. It's just that we're hidden. We're the Secret Service.
Transcript of Quenten talking about his work as a probation officer - extended clip
An average day, I usually see around about five to six offenders a day. Giving them support is probably the number one thing from our point of view. And it's motivating them to do the right thing. Give them tools and kind of ways that we can help them to rehabilitate themselves. And once I've seen them and we've gone through what needs to be done, it usually turns to a bit of paperwork.
Case noting what we do with our offenders, doing some reports as well for court or even for the parole board. It takes a bit of our time up, but it's one of the things that has to be done. But it's one of those things that also betters your practice as well. You kind of learn from your case noting. And it gets better and better every time you do it.
You need to be focused. You also need to have good time management. That's probably one of the main priorities is having good time management. Being able to squeeze everything in. But we come down to the point where if we're running behind, we kind of just head down, bum up, and just get it done.
I expected the offenders, one of my first contact was obviously to be quite aggressive and always trying to get one over on ya. But it was actually the absolute opposite. They were quite friendly, open. I mean, you get your offender that has a bad day, and they throw their toys. But I mean, it's very rare that it happens.
I think the biggest challenges of the job is patience. Your patience are definitely gonna get tested if they can walk into a room and just sit there. And they won't talk to you, they won't even look at you. They will just, they're playing the game. And you could sit there for 15 minutes and just look at each other. It's hard to see someone go through that. And then they end up coming back through the system again. And for some people, it might take five or six times until they're actually - "I'm sick of this, I really want to do something."
I think you need a positive attitude. I think you need an attitude that, you know, can-do. I think the main attitude is you need to come into the job knowing that you can't save everybody. But it's the ones that you do that count. Yeah.
I think the camaraderie, especially in my own office, we're very tight. It's something you actually need in a probation office. In terms of privacy, we can't really go home and just let it all out at home. It's something that you kind of got to talk to your work mates. And we're quite open. And I think that's what makes us quite a good office is we're quite open with each other.
It's something that I hold quite dear to my heart is changing people's lives. It's not going to happen in a day or two. It's a journey that you go along with your offenders. And it's a journey that I enjoy. I think the change is the big thing for me, being able to have an impact on someone's life in some way or another. It's what gets me up in the morning. Yeah.
Transcript of Conan and Barbara talking about their work as case managers - extended clip
Conan: A case manager plans a prison sentence from end to end. We could schedule a program for the violence, and then we could also schedule something for the alcohol abuse. Many prisoners come in with the view that employment is their biggest issue. Whatever they seem interested in, we can give them means by which to get qualifications, and help them gather a bit of a portfolio for when they're released.
Barbara: Then working with them, encouraging, motivating, supporting them throughout that sentence to achieve those activities.
Conan: We'll oversee everything that ideally goes on within the prisoner's sentence. And the average day would be interviewing prisoners, discussing issues about their offending, whatever issues they have at the time, whether it's with their environment, and the units. So we'll come back and record everything. We do case notes. We do risk assessments. We provide parole reports. It can be at least 50% administrative work. If you're particularly quick on the computer, then you'll do well, and you can spend more time with the face to face.
Regularly, there's meetings with colleagues, custodial staff, psych services, and programme facilitators and probation. We get together and we provide expertise from our relevant roles, to help a prisoner through whatever issue they might be going through at the time.
Barbara: I actually do feel safe in my job. I always make a point not to become complacent about being aware of my own safety, and knowing who to call, having the right equipment so that you can call on the radio if you need it, and knowing what to do if the actual conversation gets elevated.
Conan: Having fun at times when it's appropriate, is a good release. Core qualities and attributes for this job, I'd say would be to want to help people change, be willing to deal with some really meaty issues and help people through those, to be able to work as part of an effective team, having a pretty calm manner about yourself - non-threatening. You've got to be actually a good communicator as well, verbally and written. Because there's a lot of paperwork and there's a lot of face to face contact.
Barbara: You need to be able to empathise, but have really strong professional boundaries because you're working in an environment where, perhaps, you will be tested by prisoners at times. You need to be honest. You need to be reliable, and time management skills are a must. It's really important to be able to manage your workload as a case manager, because as I've said, it varies from day to day, week to week. So we need to be able to prioritise and time manage all that.
It is very important to have a really good attitude to all cultures. I mean, there is a big percentage of Maori in New Zealand prisons. We do have an obligation under the treaty, to actually provide services and programmes particularly related to Maori. Also our staff, I mean we're all, very multicultural.
Conan: You're not always dealing with people who want to change. And that can be a difficult thing, because you can come in, with the best intentions, and someone's just going to not want a bar of it. Generally, for everybody there, there's a way around whatever obstacle a prisoner might have at the time, so we can always find a way.
Barbara: The way that I know that I've made a difference is if somebody doesn't come back to prison. Another way is if somebody actually says something like, "you know when you said such and such three months ago, well I've had a think about that, and now, I didn't want to go and attend any programmes, but now I'm going to."
Transcript of Jeena talking about her work as a programme facilitator - extended clip
Ultimately, our goal is to manage safety in the community, make the community a safer place, and reduce re-offending. So I'm like a cog in this massive wheel that's all going for that same goal, and my part of it is creating a space where the guys can start to work through things that are little bit closer to home that maybe they struggle to talk to their probation officer or their case managers about it. And so we work with them every day, four days a week, for three months usually.
That creates an environment where they can really explore what's going on for them, what's been happening in their lifestyle, what's been leading to their offending, and what do they want to change, and how do they want to change it, what strategies can they use. So we really dig, dig deep.
The training's amazing. We get trained in all different types of programmes. So there's alcohol and drug programmes, the motivational programmes, and then the rehabilitative programmes. And we all learn them as we go, and then you chop and change between them - which keeps the job new and exciting as well, because you're constantly moving around and working together to make it all work.
So a typical day in the life of a facilitator is based around - you'd probably spend half the day in the programme with your participants, and then you spend the other half taking notes from what you saw in the room and developing objectives and treatment plans that you can keep live throughout the process. And then you plan with your co-facilitator or plan for the next session for the next day so that you're all ready to roll, and then you go from there, yeah.
Culture is important because we're working with a range of cultures. You can have some really diverse groups in the room, and being able to work with those and being able to relate to those cultures rather than coming from one specific perspective is more relatable for them.
I feel safe, definitely. I always feel safe. I didn't on my first day, obviously, because I didn't know what to expect. But once I got used to it, and once I got to know everybody involved and the team and that, I definitely feel safe.
The offenders are different to what I expected. They're really nice people - it's just a matter of getting to know them and really giving them a chance. And once they really can see that what's going on in this room is going to be helpful, and it is going to help change their lives if they take it seriously, then that's when the magic starts to happen.
The most rewarding part is when the change happens in the room right there before your eyes, when suddenly the same person who got really angry and almost started a fight two weeks ago is now breathing through it - you know, little things like that - is now actively practicing different ways of approaching things right in front of you. And when the whole group is working together on that, and encouraging each other, and reinforcing each other, and supporting each other, it's massive. That's probably the days I buzz the most when I come back to the office.
Some people are only going to change a little bit, some people are going to change more, and it's always going to be different. So you can't get your hopes up too high, either. Having realistic expectations is really important, but definitely, believing and knowing that people have the power within themselves to change.
It's just finding that and finding what drives them and finding that motivation, and being able to pull that out and show it to them and say, hey, look, you've actually got this. All it's going to take is this, this, and this. This might help. What kind of skills suit you? Finding what suits them.
That can be really powerful. That's my favourite part of the job. I love that. You have the power in this job to really make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is that one conversation and it can change everything for them.
Transcript of Sam talking about his work as an instructor - extended clip
The aim of an instructor's role is to teach our prisoners the skills from our respective industries, so that if and when they leave the prison environment, they've been given an opportunity to use what they've been taught to secure some form of employment. There are various, various roles - engineering, carpentry, grounds maintenance, printing, catering, kapa haka. Lots of choices.
I pick my prisoners up around 8:30 in the morning from their respective units. Do a pre-work maintenance check on their gear. If we left here at 9:15, we may not get back here until 2:00, 2:30. And it is then that they have their lunch. They have a break, clean up, and then I have to take them back to the unit.
If there was some training, some theory training that I have to do, I would have to work it into the work schedule, and allow two to three hours.
Once I drop them back to the unit around 3:00, 3:15, I would come back here, and then work out the next day's work schedule.
Each individual prisoner is different, based on their culture, based on their attitude. So understanding that and working with it, not against their culture. This isn't a one-way street. It's a bit of give-and-take, as well.
You're pretty safe with all the security measures around an institution. You're safer than someone driving on the motorway. You are. So there are safety measures here. There are people here who will support you all the way through. So to be fearful of a prisoner because he's got a violent offense, they inevitably, like I said, don't want to lose their jobs, so they are very well-behaved.
They see an opportunity to get employed. They get paid for it. They get to learn. They get taught things. And they get the opportunity to put into practice the stuff that they are being taught. To make a good instructor, you have to have good communication skills. And that's a priority. You've got to be able to communicate with your peers, with the prisoners, with the system that you're working, and the environment you're working in. If you can communicate well with that, you'll go a long way.
There are a lot of guys here that are lost, really. And if you can get them back on the road, you can make a difference to the lives of these guys. You're not going to have a hit every time, you've just got to keep persevering.