Media Release: Mentoring helps ex-prisoner reintegrate and make the most of life
Few people consider the challenges that people face when they emerge from prison. Luckily, PARS Inc. (formerly known as Prisoner Aid and Rehabilitation Society of Auckland District Inc.), as well as some fantastic mentors, are on hand to help prisoners adjust to life in the ‘real world’.
Based in Mt Eden, PARS facilitates a mentoring programme in which people who have come out of long stints in prison are paired with a helpful and selfless citizen who can support them to get their life back on track.
Glendene resident, Murray Young and his mentee, Hare* are one such pair. Murray is a former member of the NZ Fire Service Commission and an ex-Queen's bailiff with the Ministry of Justice who has also worked in real estate, all of which have given him a vast range of skills and excellent knowledge when it comes to people and their body language.
Hare spent several years in prison and, earlier this year, was released back into society without the required skills to cope with the changes his sentence had made to his life. That's where Murray came in… Tasks as simple as catching a bus, using an eftpos card or navigating a computer were difficult for Hare when he came out of prison, at least in part because these activities used fairly new technologies. Murray's role was to teach him the skills he needed to take on these tasks, and equip him with the confidence to function in society.
On release, many prisoners face isolation, stigma, restrictions and barriers to the community. "I didn't want to be released," says Hare. "I was afraid of being scared, lonely, depressed and I had plans of going back inside - it was more comfortable, there were things to do and people always around." For many, this is a more appealing prospect than being alone and ostracised in society.
Having PARS' support and a mentor helps them to stay out of prison, demonstrating that there is life after prison, and that reoffending is not the only choice. As well as providing his mentor, PARS assisted Hare through their Supported Accommodation service, with approved accommodation and advocacy with Work and Income, before moving on to his own residence.
Although these basic physiological needs were important, Murray has also had a huge impact on Hare's life - helping him to seek employment, working on his interview skills, teaching him to cook, and even helping him in trying to mend his relationship with his children's mother. "The best advice he's given me is to stay calm, be relaxed, love life, and take things one step at a time," says Hare.
The aim, for Murray, is to show Hare a normal way of life so that he can continue to reintegrate back into society - and most importantly, stay out of prison. "If I can contribute to keeping someone out of jail, I've done my job," says Murray. When asked what is the most important trait for a mentor to have, Murray replied: "An open mind. There's good in everybody, you just have to find it."
Mentoring with PARS hasn't been a one way street either, as Murrays says: "I've found it very, very rewarding. I'm contributing to a person's life that has been taken away from him because of his mistakes. My job is to prevent him from making more mistakes."
For Hare, PARS and Murray have been, and still are, instrumental in keeping him positive and focused. "When I have problems, I tell PARS and they get me back on track," he says.
Tui Ah Loo, Executive Director of PARS, explains, "all people benefit if we mentor people coming out and help them stay out of prison. The person re-entering society, the mentor, and the community - all are better off because of this programme."
Become a mentor with PARS to positively transform the lives of ex-prisoners and make a real difference in the community. Email Ruth at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 09 947 6185 to begin changing lives today.
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons
Christina Wedgwood, Intelligent Ink
09 629 4213 or 027 631 1071