The first Offender Employment Open Day for whānau at Christchurch Men’s Prison provided an opportunity for men to reconnect with whānau through showcasing their achievements.
Beginning in Low Security Visits, men showed whānau their journals of engineering achievements while children were entertained with a range of activities arranged by prison education and volunteer teams. The group then shared kai provided by prison catering, before moving to the Engineering Workshop where men were able to show their work.
“This was a really brilliant event for everyone concerned,” says Acting Assistant Prison Director Garron Starr. “The men were so proud to show off their achievements to whānau who really appreciated the opportunity to share in the learning of their family member. Offender employment is all about preparation for release and acquiring the skills needed to give them better opportunities in their future.”
Garron says the support of whānau in this journey can be the difference between success and failure in these endeavours. “This is definitely something we would do again in the future.”
Feedback from mothers who attended the open day illustrates the positive impact of the event.
“I was invited by my son to attend a Family Day. It was such a lovely visit. Everyone went in together and left together as a group. The visit was relaxed by having the visit in two parts – family catch up with refreshments and then the Engineering workshop. I could see how proud the men were to show their workspace to family/friends.”
Another mother wrote:
“As a Mum who has her first born in the Corrections system for life, to have been gifted this opportunity to have some insight into such a positive slice of what sometimes seems to be a very broken system was heartening.
“We also took the day as a way of reiterating to [withheld] the importance of good behaviour and respecting the efforts put in by the staff involved. My hope is that he leaves with a qualification or enough experience to help him return to the workforce one day."
Employment and Training Consultant Vicky Ward also spoke with the group in Low Security Visits about future employment opportunities available to them with the skills they learn in prison. Garron says it was powerful that whānau were able to hear about this and the potential opportunities ahead for their family member. Vicky will reconnect with the men closer to release.
“This is a great demonstration of how the prison is looking at new ways of working and delivering on our Foundations for Participation, Humanising and Healing, and Whānau Hōkai Rangi goals,” says Garron. “Pulling this together was a team effort by all the OE Engineering staff. A great event! Well done Engineering team!”
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