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Rehabilitation: helping our prisoners re-enter the community with dignity and purpose

As a prison operator, Serco has an important opportunity to support prisoner rehabilitation, reintegration and help reduce recidivism. Serco works with community partners and has a series of programs that aim to support rehabilitation and skill development.

One of the ways this is being addressed is through cultural programs, like the one running in our Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility - called Pūwhakamua.

Pūwhakamua has made remarkable strides in reducing reoffending, addressing gang culture and reconnecting prisoners with Māori culture and whānau (family).

Pūwhakamua was established by a former offender who turned his life around when he was reintroduced to the Māori way of life, sponsored by the Tikanga Aroro Charitable Trust, endorsed by Te Arawa iwi (tribe) and is supported by the Kohuora team.

Pūwhakamua is a culture-based, value-driven initiative and aims to reconnect prisoners with their cultural identity. It promotes the positive influences of Māori culture which include universal principles relevant for all cultures.

This program has been developed for people who have been incarcerated before or who might be at risk of offending again. It has strict behavioural standards and asks participants to step away from gang membership or association. The program has shown promising results both inside the prison and post-release, with a very low rate of reoffending for the people who have completed it.

The program started in a hard-to-manage wing of the prison and it is now operating across the whole site.

To help reduce reoffending, a partnership was established with Māori Charitable Trust, which provides a supportive housing environment for inmates to go to after they are released. The transition housing continues the connection with the Māori way of life, and support is provided to connect former prisoners with employment opportunities to help reduce reoffending and support their safe reintegration into communities.

A traditional smoking ceremony with body paint and man playing didgeridoo

At Clarence Correctional Facility, Damien Beetson, a proud Murrawarri and Wiradjuri man, has made it his mission to support the First Nations prisoners in his care by boosting the cultural awareness of the team membersem working within the prison.

He leads cultural ceremonies and practices and brings Elders into the centre to connect with First Nations prisoners. By educating and upskilling others around him, Damian is helping to represent the cultural and spiritual needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

“Working in corrections is important to me, especially creating positive change for Aboriginal prisoners and helping to stop reoffending," Damian says.

These are just some of the examples of programs that Serco runs to help break the cycle, reduce recidivism rates and support more positive outcomes for communities across the region.

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