RAW has now been operating for over two years with registered charitable status. The Waikato pilot has been hugely successful and continues to grow – we have achieved real transformation for our previously socially excluded women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Of most significance has been the positive inter-generational change we are witnessing as the RAW women have all rekindled their natural maternal instincts, reconnecting with their children and adopting positive parenting strategies.
We have now begun to work with the Department of Corrections, endorsed by CEO Ray Smith. We have been operating the RAW model within WIRI (Auckland’s Women’s Prison) since June 2014, walking alongside problematic recidivist female offenders – the majority of these women are young, Maori, and under-educated mothers.
RAW has applied its multi-levelled support to the women in Wiri prison, and in doing so we have identified a fundamental gap which we will be able to fill – this will radically reduce the existing re-offending levels of this group of women.
RAW has been able to provide a real solution for these women upon their release by offering them an ‘incubation like’ support model that provides open and positive pathways forward and excludes them from all negative elements of their past. This is a first for New Zealand, and adopts a different way of thinking to a massive social problem. RAW has initiated the ‘Incubator Homes’ model – locating these in the Waikato – with three to four paroled women in each home. The RAW incubator programme begins in prison where women are assessed against rigid criteria to confirm their readiness for incubation.
RAW guides the women’s choice, involvement and completion of relevant educational pathways that are offered inside, (which will continue on the outside) as well as building a trusted relationship.
We have identified the key barriers to achieving successful re-integration into society as –
With these the women being released into our communities have no hope of integrating back into these communities and quickly lose belief in themselves.
The RAW incubator provides a multi-layered level of support upon release, providing a clear pathway forward that will advance, challenge and excite them, while addressing all the key known barriers. Such is the agreement and belief in the incubation programme that the Department of Corrections have acted to support this initiative at all levels, including unlimited and unprecedented access to inmates and mutual information sharing with essential providers, assessment by corrections policy advisors, and alignment with parole.
On the 6th March 2015 RAW attended the parole hearing of our first two incubator women – both of these successfully gained parole. Both were recidivist offenders who were serving lengthy sentences and both had significant time left to serve until their sentence end date. The judge stated that the favourable outcome of their parole was due to RAW’s incubator initiative.
Both women have now been in the programme a year. One is working and the other is studying at the University of Waikato. They are thriving, embracing new challenges, connecting with society and planning a productive future.
The rules of the home are extensive and provide a safe structured housing system which allows growth and acceptance as RAW supports the girls to make good choices. The incubated girls have also been approved by Corrections to re-enter the Wiri Prison to promote this initiative to other inmates – this is unprecedented!
RAW continues to work with women in prison and expects to have seven incubator homes set up by the end of 2016.
The support from the Waikato community has been incredible and the incubator houses are fully furnished from donated content. The gifting has been heart-felt and a first for the women, who are already giving back in a variety of ways. Wintec and the University of Waikato have offered full educational scholarships for all the incubator women. Probation also have been supportive with their time, commitment and flexibility to support and grow this initiative.
It costs approximately $25,000 per annum for each woman to receive RAW’s full wrap around service.
Gallagher Charitable Trust as RAW’s first Cornerstone Partner.