New prison programme hopes to cut reoffending


A new psychological treatment programme is hoped to cut prisoner reoffending rates.

The Reflections programme at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Waikato is designed to help prisoners reflect on their offending and change their behaviour.

Inmate Luke is used to prison life, but therapy is something new,

"It's helped me to think before I act," he says.

Through art and music they learn about their emotions.

Luke says he's been working on some whakatauki signs, taking inspiration from proverbs.

"Me and another guy made a sign that had footsteps in the sand, representing the first step in a journey."

He says he wishes he'd had the opportunity years ago.

"A lot of us have come here with no real identity, we've just been lost in our ways through violence, drugs and alcohol. It gets you in touch with the real you again."

Principal psychologist Paul Whitehead says it's about changing behaviours.

"To do that they've got to look within and analyse what the effect of their past behaviours have been on others and look at the effect new behaviours can create."

But he admits there's no quick fix. 

"For some people they relapse, others manage to walk that journey. If they did nothing there would be a lot more people reoffending."

The Reflections programme at Spring Hill's Special Treatment Unit offers high intensity, psychological treatment for violent and adult sexual offenders. 

Internationally, STUs have seen a 35 percent reduction in reoffending. The success of this unit won't be known until the prisoners are released, but they're already seeing some positives.

"We've had two prisoners from rival gangs standing next to each other describing how they work together, that's success," says Corrections Central Region Commissioner, Terry Buffery.

"The foundation for reintegration is this sort of programme, where people acknowledge their offending and they learn to act and behave in a different way.  That gives them the basis to move forwards, it's really exciting."

John has been in and out of prison for 20 years.

"There was nothing like this when I first came to prison in the 90s," he says. "When I first came here I didn't really want to be here, but as I got into the programme, I progressed, I found that this programme was the big help that I needed in my life."

He's about to graduate the programme and is positive it will help him stay out of jail this time.

"I know more about myself now. I can see the changes it is making - positive changes. I've been telling myself this is the last time."

But he knows the hardest journey, and the real test of success, will be on the outside.