Let’s talk about hous­ing former in­mates

Bay of Plenty Times - - NATION - Mark Daw­son

It is hard to overem­pha­sise the im­por­tance of rein­te­grat­ing in­mates into the com­mu­nity when they are re­leased from prison.

If we don’t want them re­of­fend­ing and end­ing up back be­hind bars, we need to pro­vide sup­port and sta­bil­ity and that cov­ers the likes of ac­com­mo­da­tion, em­ploy­ment and some sort of so­cial struc­ture — as well as care­ful mon­i­tor­ing.

In Whanganui, PARS (Pris­on­ers' Aid and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion So­ci­ety) and other agen­cies do a lot of dif­fi­cult but ex­tremely worth­while work in this area.

Corrections also has a vi­tal role to play, and last month it moved to set up an “ex­tended su­per­vi­sion fa­cil­ity” — what is col­lo­qui­ally termed “a half­way house” — along Shake­speare Rd on Whanganui’s Bas­tia Hill.

Of course, no­body in that at­trac­tive neigh­bour­hood is rush­ing to have former pris­on­ers, parolees and the like mov­ing in next door.

And it only took the threat of a res­i­dents’ pe­ti­tion for Corrections to pull the plug.

Good news, per­haps, for the folk on Bas­tia Hill — but what is the mes­sage from this?

These peo­ple tran­si­tion­ing back into so­ci­ety have to live some­where, yet no one is keen to have them on their patch.

So is it that if you get or­gan­ised, col­lect sig­na­tures and make a big enough fuss, Corrections will back off?

That’s not solv­ing the prob­lem; it’s merely push­ing it some­where else.

With a sub­stan­tial prison just down the high­way — one which, in­ci­den­tally, pro­vides a lot of jobs and a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic boost to Whanganui — it is not un­rea­son­able for us to have these rein­te­gra­tion houses in town.

In this case, it ap­pears Corrections did a poor job of con­sult­ing the com­mu­nity.

As Bas­tia Hill res­i­dent and former coun­cil­lor Stephen Palmer pointed out, lo­cal res­i­dents had a

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