Group’s work with teens praised
When Andrew Little stopped off in Stratford on Friday he had words of praise for the work being done by START Taranaki in Kaponga.
START (Supporting Today's At Risk Teenagers) was founded by Neville Phillips and is a community-based Supervision with Activity (SwA) provider which works with at risk youth.
Justice Minister Andrew Little said it was the first time he had visited the team at START Taranaki and he was really impressed by what he had seen and heard during his time there.
“They have achieved some great outcomes with their clients, who have come from some really tough backgrounds and the teaching strategies being used there are really impressive.”
Little said New Zealand has one of the highest incarceration rates in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), something which the country should not be proud of. “We also have one of the highest reoffending rates, and have for a long time, so it is clear just locking people up for longer isn’t the answer to the problems we have got.”
New Zealand can learn from other penal systems, he said, citing a visit he made to the Netherlands as an example of how things can be done differently.
“They focus on creating opportunity for the maximum contact between prisoners and staff, as well as keeping prisoners occupied in productive activity and work throughout the day. The staff wear civilian style clothing rather than uniform, and the inmates themselves aren’t in traditional prison garb either. They are taught how to live in the civilian world prior to their release, with special units set up for them near the end of their sentence where they learn to cook, shop and clean before they are released.”
It is notable, said Little, that reoffending rates in the Netherlands are much lower than in New Zealand.
Reform is on the way for the New Zealand justice system he said, with a Chester Borrows-led Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group - Te Uepu Hapai i te Ora to - currently working to report back to the minister next year on ways to improve the system.
Little said the group are visiting towns and cities around the country holding a series of meetings and drop in sessions with the community. They will be in Taranaki on November 15.