Whare 4 Freedom works to reintegrate prisoners

A halfway home for newly released prisoners has been opened in Tauranga today and it's the first of its kind.

The new approach is designed to reintegrate prisoners back into society and reduce the high reoffending rates for Māori men.

Shaun Pene, a staff member at Whare 4 Freedom, has been in and out of jail three times himself and knows how hard it is to stay out.

"It touches my soul to give to these men that come in here and tell them you are worth something, you are someone's mokopuna, someone's child and you are somebody."

This is what it feels like to know you're protecting someone from throwing away their own freedom.

"In jail you get all the supports every day, you rely on these supports and when you're left to come out to the community there's nothing for you."

He's one of the 47 percent of Māori who are re-imprisoned within two years of being released.

A statistic that Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Manager Piki Russell has seen play out in real life, on repeat.

"A honeymoon period would happen, everything was happy and then the hard work started."

Six years ago she came up with Whare 4 Freedom.

"Obviously the time is right and the time is now."

The programme will provide a home, education and family, for four newly released, low-risk, prisoners.

They'll pay for their own rent and food, but the support staff will work for free.

Tommy Wilson, CEO of Te Tuinga Whanau says somewhere; somehow, we've got to stop building more jails.

"We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Whare 4 Freedom says funding would be great, but it's not the priority.

They say the most important thing at the moment is community buy in, and so far, so good.

 With neighbours saying they're happy with the arrangement, it means giving these men a second chance at life.

"They don't want to go back to gangs; they definitely don't want to go back inside. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to go back to their family," says Mr Wilson.

Providing them with that family from the day they're released, is what Tommy thinks has the power to save futures.

"I don't think it. I know it".


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