Early February 2017 marked the three year anniversary of RAW, an initiative that was created from the newly formed Stretton Foundation late in 2013.
RAW was initially set up to provide very real choice through education and lifelong tiered support to women from disadvantaged demographics. These women initially consisted of young Maori that had been born into the country’s gangs, living a life of drugs, crime and violence. They were identified as they entered Women’s Refuge to seek respite from their turbulent lifestyles.
THE MODEL WORKED, AND RAW TURNED ITS ATTENTIONS TO RECIDIVIST INCARCERATED WOMEN. THREE YEARS INTO IT, RAW NOW BOASTS MANY HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL WOMEN WHO ARE WALKING A JOURNEY OF EDUCATION, OR WHO ARE IN WORK. THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR LIVES AND FACILITATED INTER-GENERATIONAL CHANGE AS THEIR MATERNAL INSTINCTS WERE RE-IGNITED. RAW HAS GIVEN THESE WOMEN THE VERY NECESSARY CHOICE AND VISIBILITY THAT THEY NEEDED TO EFFECT THE TRANSFORMATION.
For RAW it has been a massive 3 years of learnings, flexibility and outcomes, as we have developed and advanced the model, and aligned with the relevant support networks, NGO’s and government organisations. RAW has transformed the lives of recidivist offenders (women and men) and we have achieved very real outcomes where in the past these excluded populations have been unlikely to get any change.
Initially working only with women on the outside, we quickly identified that incarcerated women were also a likely fit for the RAW model, in that they too clearly formed part of the disadvantaged demographic.
Working alongside Corrections, RAW gained entry to Auckland Women’s Prison and started to make some unprecedented inroads with the inmates. Women who were classified as recidivist offenders and disruptive influences inside and outside started to engage with RAW. Part of this success was the introduction of Rena Campbell – an-ex inmate (and a RAW success story)
Rena had been deported from Australia after a nine year prison term for trafficking ice. Her advocacy and success on the RAW model was showcased in the prison and made a huge difference to our ability to engage with the inmates.
TO DATE WE HAVE A SRONG PIPELINE OF WOMEN THAT HAVE APPLIED TO BE CONSIDERED BY RAW IN THE PRISON. OUR GOAL IS TO WORK WITH THE WOMEN PRE-RELEASE, TO GUIDE THEM INTO STRONG EDUCATIONAL CHOICES AND ON EXIT, THEY ARE THEN RELOCATED AND INTRODUCED TO THE RAW TIERED MODEL OF SUPPORT, TO CONTINUE THE RAW JOURNEY.
2017 will see RAW purchase/rent 7 Incubator homes, initially located in Hamilton, where 3 to 4 newly released women (and now men,) both on probation and at the end of their sentences, will live together for a year, in a disciplined environment. (The rules of operation for these houses have been set by the inmates in collaboration with RAW.)
Here they will continue their educational pathways, supported by the RAW tiered system, as well as being taught very necessary life skills, while they continue on the RAW journey – which is lifelong.
The Incubator homes are in Hamilton, where the first group of women arrived in March 2015 and were happy to relocate to advance themselves through the incubators. The opportunity to actually change their pathways forward far outweighed the fact that they had to do another year in a reasonably disciplined environment (without whanau or children) – environments that this time created very real outcomes.
The women are extremely aware of the social injustice that attaches to them and therefore know that RAW offers a way to advance out of this.
Recidivism in NZ is extremely high, and it doesn’t take much to see why. Women exiting the prison have no choice, and know no other way – re-offending and recall is extremely high and the fiscal and social cost of this to NZ is huge.
It costs $100k to keep a woman (or man) in prison for a year, not including community expenses, policing, probation, costs of criminal behaviours (insurances,) destruction of families (most of an offenders income is made by drug manufacturing and crime,) legal aid, court costs, CYPS involvement, ongoing payments of child support, debt and fines unpaid and medical costs – the list goes on.
The RAW incubator homes are simply applying a new lens and commercial principles to a significant social problem. RAW has built on the successful outcomes and the learnings of its pilot model that found its women through the refuge, then moved to the women’s prison to work with recidivist offenders. Using the resources and support system that we have developed, especially the connection to some of the RAW female success stories, they in turn will join us to work with the inmates.
RAW will transform the outcomes for this excluded group of women and create the inter-generational change that is needed.
To put an inmate through education, or engage them in work on the outside when living in a disciplined and supported home, guided by rules, as agreed by the inmates, is an exciting prospect for this country and these socially excluded women.
RAW’S INCUBATOR INITIATIVE WILL ASSIST CORRECTIONS WITH THEIR NATIONAL GOAL TO REDUCE RE OFFENDING BY 25%
Letter to RAW from Cheryle Mikaere, Prison Director, Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
Experience and feedback confirms that women who have been sentenced to a term of incarceration, are vulnerable for many reasons and rely on support that takes many shapes and forms. Not all of them are positive.
The first meeting I had with Annah and Rebecca gave me great hope, in that the pleas for help I had been asking for in various community forums was finally being answered. I was immediately drawn to the drive and passion that was going to be of great benefit to our wahine that RAW engaged with.
The RAW model/programme is exactly what our wahine need. The initial engagement of other wahine who have “walked their walk” is absolutely vital, it gives the programme credibility. The ongoing interactions with Rebecca slowly erodes any mistrust that may have been there (remember our wahine have been victims/perpetrators for most of their lives) and a genuine/sincere bond begins.
The RAW programme shows our wahine that they can make positive, sustainable change, they can utilise the strategies and tools they have learned on their journey and they do it with solid, ongoing support.
The RAW incubator home is a brilliant component of the transition of our wahine from prison to the community, away from their offending area and associations. The strong emphasis for our wahine to focus on higher education and employment is definitely a contributing factor to reducing re-offending and breaking the cycle of recidivism.
The exposure of our wahine to “Sirs and Dames” and other distinguished members of the Hamilton community empowers them and lifts their confidence and self esteem. These meetings, mastered by Annah, emphasises to our wahine that they are positive, productive members of the community.
RAW is unique and they will affect positive change for the female prisoner population of New Zealand.
Nga mihi nui.
Cheryle Mikaere | Prison Director
Auckland Region Womens Corrections Facility | Department of Corrections Ara Poutama Aotearoa |
Gallagher Charitable Trust as RAW’s first Cornerstone Partner.