Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Reducing Recidivism: An Evaluation of the Pathway Total Reintegration Programme

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Reducing Recidivism: An Evaluation of the Pathway Total Reintegration Programme

Article excerpt

Pathway Total Reintegration Strategy

The Pathway Reintegration programme (run by the Pathway Charitable Group, henceforth PCG) is a programme that seeks to successfully reintegrate prisoners back into society. This programme is based around individualised social work support and counselling as well as assisting clients with employment, accommodation and other practical support. It is run in Canterbury, New Zealand, and takes clients from the two local men's prisons.

The reintegration programme lasts a total of eight months, made up of two months of assessment before the client is released and six months of targeted work of varying intensity after release. Contact after this period continues as necessary, with many clients remaining in contact with the organisation long after they have formally 'graduated'. At present the programme is run only with male offenders, who make up over 93 percent of New Zealand's prison population. This programme has been operating since 2008, and the data for this study was collected in 2013. Pathway began with one full-time social worker and with a second joining in 2011 (after this study was completed, a third was also added). In order to determine how effective this service is, Pathway approached us to conduct a review of these five years of operation.

Pathway's service is highly collaborative, and is reliant upon relationships with the Department of Corrections and various non-government-organisations. This includes referring clients to a wide range of other organisations where they have needs that Pathway cannot address directly.

Pathway staff work with prisoners for around eight weeks prior to their release in order to determine their specific needs, their suitability for the programme and their likelihood to fully commit to reintegration. This work is designed to get to know the client personally and build a rapport with them, which is essential for a functioning social work relationship. A detailed plan for reintegration is written, laying out in clear terms what steps are necessary for building a 'good life' on the outside. These plans focus on 'restorative reintegration', a process that, where possible, involves mending bridges with those who the offender has wronged, including the victim, the offender's family and the community in general. Each plan is individualised and does not follow a set template: every client's needs are different and not all aspects of Pathway's services are relevant to all clients. The one element that is common to all clients is Pathway's regular one-on-one social work support, but the majority of plans also include a community mentor and a commitment to attend around two community work days.

Social work support

The Pathway reintegration programme is based on a core of social work support. Each Pathway client is assigned a social worker whose workload is balanced to ensure that they are always available in moments of crisis and can be proactive in their support. This social work relationship forms the backbone of the programme, and aims to form a strong bond between Pathway staff and clients that can survive if the client backslides or even reoffends:

Relationship is core. Being able to build a trusting relationship between us and the men we work with is the most important thing that we do - it needs to be a relationship which can live through the good days and bad, and this means that at times we live with people letting us down, mucking us around. It means looking past the present behaviour and seeking to understand why is this person acting in this manner and what can we do to make it safe enough for this person to take a risk of trusting me (2013: pers. comm.).

Pathway's social work is organised around the concepts of Desistance Theory (Maruna, 2001) and the Good Lives Model (Ward & Stewart, 2003), which provide the tools for an approach that aims to address the drivers of offending in the long term.

Desistance Theory

'Desistance' - meaning desistance from offending - refers to the permanent cessation of offending activity rather than a short-term or impermanent interruption (Farrall & Calverley, 2006). …

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