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While RAW does not claim to be academic experts, this discussion paper, Tomorrow’s Prisons, is intended to ignite a conversation around content that has been provided from the stakeholders (the RAW women) who have collectively spent over 50 years on the inside of women’s prisons in New Zealand and perhaps are now the ones to provide the solutions to the change that we as a country seek.

“I’ve made it clear to Corrections that I expect our prisons to be a place where people serve their time, receive the rehabilitation they require and reintegrate back into communities, not to return”, from the Hon Kelvin Davis’ press release, commenting on the Ombudsman’s report into prisons on 5 December 2017.

“If we want to reduce the prison population, we can’t just lock people up – the focus has to be on rehabilitation. For this to be successful we must have the right culture in our prisons and the facilities have to be up to scratch.”

In a recent NZ Herald interview, on 22 February 2018, with the Hon. Andrew Little he indicated “Our big challenge is to draw to all New Zealanders attention what has actually been happening and to win a social licence to say we have to do things differently.”  He said he wanted a “national conversation” which sought out the best ideas but also led to a better-informed nation that understood “tough-on-crime” policies were leaving a legacy of failure.

In February 2013, RAW (Reclaim Another Woman) commenced its journey with Corrections.  As we launch into 2018 I believe, through ongoing conversation, reading and working with predominantly Māori recidivist female offenders, RAW is now in a strong position to help identify solutions to stopping and reducing our amplifying female prison population in the New Zealand public prison system.

It is also important to keep in mind “the pathways women take into offending are also different, and it is more common for women to be affected by trauma and victimisation; mental health issues; unhealthy relationships; parenting difficulty and stress; and economic marginalisation.  Recent analysis has shown that 52% of women in prison have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” – Department of Correction’s Briefing to Incoming Minister, page 32.

The following proposal is aimed specifically at modifying women’s prisons to achieve the Ministers’ goals above, and outlines strategies for reducing recidivist offending in women.

Continuing to do what has always been done and expecting a 25% improvement in reoffending is ultimately the definition of insanity.  To reduce the alarming growth in the female prison population and effect reduced recidivist behaviour will require a change in policy direction, investment in people and programmes, and courage.

To download Tomorrow’s Prisons as a pdf document click here.  We are looking forward to a robust “conversation” on the role of prisons to rehabilitate and reintegrate women into society.