24 Aug 2018

Housing of ex-cons on prison grounds upsets locals

8:33 pm on 24 August 2018

A move to hold released prisoners who cannot find other accommodation in self-care units in the grounds of Rimutaka Prison has raised concern amongst parents at nearby schools.

Rimutaka Prison

Rimutaka Prison Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Up to 11 former prisoners could be held in the prison's former training facility, which has been renamed Te Korowai, meaning a place where people are sheltered and cared for.

Earlier this week the Department of Corrections sent a fact sheet to 21 Upper Hutt schools and gave information to over 40 early childhood centres in the area about the move.

It acknowledges many of those who will pass through Te Korowai will have convictions for sexual offending against children.

Corrections operations director Matire Kupenga-Wanoa said finding suitable accommodation for child sex offenders who could no longer be legally detained in prison was one of its most significant challenges.

"Placing child sex offenders on prison land, outside the wire, is our final option for housing these offenders.

"The reality is that without accommodation, they would be homeless, which would present an unacceptable safety risk to communities."

Nearby schools include St Brendan's in Heretaunga and Hutt International Boys' School, a secondary college.

Parents outside St Brendan's School on Friday afternoon were very concerned about the plan.

Amongst their comments were that parents would have to be more vigilant about keeping an eye on children in the area, making sure they travel in groups and keep safe.

"I do have concerns they are close to two schools ... and can probably freely walk out of the prison and in 10 minutes they're at two schools."

Another said, "I understand people need to have a place to go. I'm not sure whether the way the information was distributed was the best way, leaving it up to the parents to read it and then contact them directly. I'd presumed there would be some community meetings about such a thing."

The Corrections Department said the men who would be housed in Te Korowai would be subject to strict conditions, which could include GPS monitoring, regular meetings with probation staff and restrictions on their living and working arrangements.

There will also be a ban on alcohol consumption, a restriction on who can visit the units and the men there will be supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However parents outside St Brendan's School on Friday afternoon had mixed views over Corrections' ability to keep the community safe.

"Going on past history there's definitely been some concerns about whether they can monitor them properly and I do have concerns about that," one parent said.

"I would hope so, but you see cases on the news where people have been offending and re-offending and I guess they don't always get it right," another said.

Corrections said there were currently only two offenders living at the Te Korowai facility.

It said a released prisoner's compliance with their conditions was closely managed by their probation officer and a range of enforcement sanctions were available.

That includes prosecution for breaching of conditions, which could result in further imprisonment.

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