Former in­mates ready for work­force

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - JARED NI­COLL

‘‘The first three months of be­ing out is pretty daunt­ing. The sup­port needs to be there for at least six months to 12.’’

A for­merly vi­o­lent in­mate who changed his life work­ing out­side of prison is urg­ing em­ploy­ers to give con­victs the op­por­tu­nity to prove them­selves.

Chris, who with­held his sur­name for pri­vacy rea­sons, was raised in South Auck­land and had amassed of­fences that in­cluded vi­o­lence and dis­hon­esty dat­ing back to 2003.

Last week the former Hawke’s Bay in­mate, along with an­other man who served a com­mu­nity de­ten­tion ser­vice in Waikanae for crimes in­clud­ing ar­son, spoke at a Cor­rec­tions De­part­ment event aimed to high­light the grow­ing amount of work­place skills held by of­fend­ers to em­ploy­ers.

A re­cent stint in prison led to a ma­jor turning point for Chris.

‘‘At 31 years old, I was once again in a prison cell curs­ing and blam­ing oth­ers for my short­com­ings.

‘‘I woke up one morn­ing and as I walked out of my cell to fall into line at our morn­ing pa­rade, I looked both left and right and it dawned on me that... I had seen the same faces since 2003.’’

He did not want to grow old liv­ing in and out of prison so drew strength from the church, and the prison’s Maori Fo­cus Unit.

He worked with a case man­ager to ad­dress anger is­sues, and get some of the skills he would need to get a foot in the door of a work­ing in­dus­try for fur­ther train­ing, which even­tu­ally lead to a job af­ter pa­role with Hawke’s Bay or­chard owner Jerf van Beek.

‘‘I think the main thing is that when the broth­ers come out of prison ... the first three months of be­ing out is pretty daunt­ing. The sup­port needs to be there for at least six months to 12.’’

Van Beek, who is the Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ na­tional co-or­di­na­tor of sea­sonal labour, works with Cor­rec­tions to help pris­on­ers get into the in­dus­try, which he said had ‘‘places to burn’’ for fit, ca­pa­ble men.

Former com­mu­nity de­ten­tion of­fender Ben, who also with­held his last name for pri­vacy rea­sons, had a happy fam­ily start to life but years later found him­self charged with ar­son and as­sault.

The 32-year-old from Plim­mer­ton near Welling­ton said in his teens he ‘‘found my­self fol­low­ing the cool kids ... drink­ing, smok­ing pot, and other recre­ational drugs’’.

He spent years go­ing through the same rou­tine: ‘‘Do­ing drugs and drink­ing, but hold­ing down a full­time job.’’

‘‘I then met my now girl­friend, who had five girls.

‘‘I ... didn’t know how to han­dle my new life with all these fe­males. I turned to heavy drink­ing and ... one thing led to an­other and I was charged with drink-driv­ing, ar­son, and as­sault, all in one year.’’

He was sen­tenced to 500 hours of com­mu­nity work and nine months’ home de­ten­tion.

‘‘While do­ing my com­mu­nity work and home de­ten­tion sen­tences, Cor­rec­tions went out of their way to re­ha­bil­i­tate me.‘‘

His pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer told him about a job at Good­mans Con­tract­ing, an earth­works firm in Kapiti.

‘‘Hav­ing a job is some­thing I re­ally needed. First to sup­port my fam­ily, but the main rea­son was to give me a daily rou­tine and keep me out of trou­ble.’’

PHOTO: JARED NI­COLL/FAIR­FAX NZ

Chris is a former pris­oner now work­ing in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try in Hawke’s Bay. Former in­mate, Chris

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