Kim Workman: Communities of Restoration – Thinking Biblically, Speaking Secularly
Jun 02, 2009
For more than five years, Prison Fellowship New Zealand has run a 60 bed faith based unit at Rimutaka Prison, near Wellington. He Korowai Whakapono (HWK) is a 60 bed unit based at run in a partnership agreement between Prison Fellowship NZ (who provide the programmes staff, programmes and volunteers), and the Department of Corrections, (who provide the facilities and custodial staff.) It is a Christ-centred, transformational approach, based on a programme of spiritual teaching and prayer, with an emphasis on mutual accountability, and positive social engagement. Prisoners serving their last two years of a sentence can volunteer for the programme, which lasts around 18 months. Eight months before release, prisoners are matched with a mentor who will prepare them for release, and continue to mentor them for up to two years following release.
The Operational Reality
He Korowai Whakapono comes from the position that stigma is one of the key factors that makes ex-prisoners likely to re-offend. To combat this presumption, the restorative reintegration or ‘strengths based’ paradigm calls for ex-prisoners to make amends, demonstrate their value and potential, and make a positive commitment to their communities. The goal is to transform receivers of help (such as welfare beneficiaries), into dispensers of help. It holds prisoners accountable in a variety of ways and challenges participants to “earn their way back “.
Turning Theory into Practise – The Practise of ‘Restorative Reintegration’
How do you accomplish this in practise? The operating environment of HKW has been structured to reinforce the values and beliefs of the prison unit on a daily basis. Apart from regular scriptural teaching and opportunities for personal and spiritual development, the following operating principles, part of a model of ‘restorative reintegration’, exist to encourage positive living.
Family Meetings: Each weekday evening, participants meet in four groups of 15 men, to discuss the days activities. As in any family (or whanau) , prisoners experience there is conflict, disagreements and hurt. Participants are encouraged to accept responsibility for their choices and actions and work collectively solve problems. Each participant is responsible for his behaviour and conduct to the rest of the group. In that setting, they also learn to express love, concern, trust, commitment and support for those who are going through difficult times. It is a place for participants to share and feel safe, knowing that each persons’ hurts, joys, achievements and victories are about that person’s journey. Information is shared so people in the group could build each other up and encourage each other in their journey.
Conflict Resolution: Many of the inmates had been raised in families where the fist ruled, and are victims of physical and sexual abuse. Prison Fellowship have introduced a conflict resolution model, by which interpersonal and disciplinary issues can be resolved. Prisoners are taught how to resolve conflict among themselves, through a process that can be replicated when they re-enter society.
Taking Active Responsibility: Passive responsibility means holding someone responsible for something they have done in the past. Active responsibility means taking responsibility for putting things right in the future. HKW is not concerned with the past - the focus instead, is on monitoring, recording and assessing what the prisoner or ex-prisoner has done to redeem himself or herself through victim reparation, community service, volunteer work, and mentoring. Participants are constantly challenged on this front. Mistakes are mostly regarded as “teachable moments”.
Active responsibility also requires prisoners to take responsibility for their ongoing development – skills, education, and recreational activities. Productivity is a key value. Prison volunteers run arts classes, choir, music, literacy programmes, and provide one on one support. Volunteers provide up to 10,000 hours of additional programme time annually, in supporting prisoners.
Offender Reparation: Central to the concept of restoration is the notion of ‘making good’ or ‘earned redemption’. This is won by actively making positive contributions to one’s community in a reparative fashion, in recognition that the wider community is often the primary victim of many of the crimes in the justice system Examples of such initiatives in the United Kingdom include Community Service Volunteers. community service outside the prison, and restorative practise within prisons At HKW, two work teams leave the unit daily to do community work at churches, and public facilities.
Victim – Offender Reconciliation: Prisoners are where possible, engaged in a mutual effort at reconciliation, where offender and society work together to make amends - for hurtful crime and hurtful punishments – and move forward” The Sycamore Tree programme runs regularly at the unit, and every effort is made to facilitate restorative justice conferences between victims and offenders.
Strengthening Families: The strengths based approach provides the framework for prisoners and ex-prisoners to develop as parents. Active engagement in parenting programmes provides a stability zone for offenders that softens the psychological impact of confinement, and may help reduce recidivism and transmit pro-social attitudes to a future generation.
Helping Behaviour: The helper principle simply says “it is better to give than receive”. The benefits of assuming the role of helper include a sense of accomplishment, grounded increments in self-esteem, meaningful purposiveness, and a cognitive restructuring toward responsibility. Participants are turned to pro-social behaviour through involvement with activities that utilize their strengths. It is the difference between compliance and growth.
Mentoring: Prisoners are provided with a mentor eight months before they leave prison, and up to two years after they leave. Released prisoners in time, become mentors themselves. Support that involves community volunteers befriending a returning prisoner reinforces the direct support and assistance to the families of offenders before and after imprisonment
Read Kim Workman's full paper to learn more about HKW and it's impact on offender behaviour.