8 Sep 2011

Women's refuge work 'reforms' Waikeria prisoners

8:10 pm on 8 September 2011

A Waikeria Prison manager credits women's refuge workers with reforming the lives of Maori prisoners at Waikeria.

Male prisoners have done landscaping work and carved pou, or posts, for the new Whakaruruhau refuge in Hamilton. They attended the opening on Thursday.

Errol Baker, who runs the Maori focus unit at Waikeria, Te Ao Marama, says the relationship began a few years back when refuge workers agreed to go to the prison and speak to the men.

He says prisoners are now allowed to work at the refuge while refuge workers visit the men in prison and speak at their parole hearings, which has led to some big life changes for the inmates involved.

Mr Baker says only one of the men in the refuge working party has returned to prison after his release.

Prisoners from Te Ao Marama will continue to maintain the grounds at the new whanau refuge.