Our stories & events

Virtual programme delivery

25 November 2021
Untitled design 71 v2

The Programmes team at Waikeria Prison are not letting lockdowns and fluctuating alert levels stop them from delivering programmes to people in prison.

Under Alert Level 3, face-to-face programmes in prisons are a no-go, so the team has moved their work online. The Short Rehabilitation Programme (SRP) is now being delivered to men in Nikau Unit via the shared virtual meeting rooms (SVMR) system.

Principal Facilitator Mark Holland is the driving force behind the virtual delivery of programmes at Waikeria Prison. He says it’s important to continue the momentum and keep programmes running throughout lockdown.

“We are getting to a stage where we’ve been locked down so long that men are not getting sufficient time to complete their programmes before they’re released,” says Mark.

“They’re also sitting in their rooms with very little to do due to the lockdown. I walked past one unit the other day and was approached by four men who are on paused programmes, desperate for them to start up again.”

Programme Facilitator Michaela Gielen was three weeks into the SRP with three participants when lockdown hit. She started delivering virtually three weeks ago, and aside from a few technical glitches in the first couple of days, it’s been going really well.

“It’s definitely an adjustment delivering online, but I’m really enjoying it,” says Michaela.

“The participants are enjoying it too. Before we started our online sessions I was keeping in contact with them over the phone, just checking in to see how they were. They said they were really keen to start the programme back up again.”

Ordinarily, SRP sessions are held Monday to Thursday for two-and-a-half hours, but because of limited access to rooms and AVL facilities in the unit, Michaela has adapted the programme and is delivering hour-long sessions Monday to Friday.

“We’re sticking to the content and I’ve been giving the men a lot more homework than I usually do, and they’re completing it. They’ve been doing a lot more self-reflection in their books, because of how motivated they are.”

Michaela says this is a true collaboration between the custodial and programmes teams, and without the support of the unit staff, this wouldn’t be possible.

“PCO Dan Taylor and his team have been amazing. They just jumped on board straight away when I asked if there was any way we could do this. Nikau is such a great unit. The staff there genuinely care for the men and their wellbeing.

Michaela says when you’re delivering virtually it’s a lot harder to read body language and pick up on nuances. "You’re completely reliant on verbal cues, so it’s extremely important to have the staff there backing me up and checking in on the guys in person.”

* In the image above: 

Programme Facilitator Michaela Gielen delivers the SRP online to men in Waikeria Prison.