Lifetime gang member changes his stripes

Lifetime gang member changes his stripes

For many, being part of a gang is a lifetime commitment, often committing equally to a life of crime and violence. Many gang members spend years of their lives in and out of prison and find it very difficult to break the cycle. Rawiri* is one great exception to that rule.

Rawiri joined the Mongrel Mob up in Northland before he even turned 11, after a difficult childhood with a father who was, in Rawiri's words, a "hard bastard." He described being in the gang as great, saying "I enjoyed it. Everybody shows off to everybody." However, it wasn't long before Rawiri ended up becoming involved in violent acts, and was soon set on his path of crime.

He ended up in and out of prison several times, each time returning to his home turf and finding himself back in prison, triggered by familiar people and circumstances without any support.

Eighteen months ago he left prison again, but this time around he had extra motivation to stay out - his fiancée said she wouldn't marry him if he couldn't stay on the straight and narrow! He clearly needed some help, so that's where PARS came in. After having supported Rawiri with bank access and other tasks that prove exceedingly difficult while in prison, PARS became a backbone of support for him upon his release.

PARS brought Rawiri down to Auckland and helped him find a place in Mt Albert, where he is a big help to the apartment manager. Leaving his home turf meant that he had a chance to break his old habits and test out his commitment to staying out of prison. "I figured if I can last here, I can last up there." Every time he felt tempted to revert to his old ways, he would call PARS, who would help him stay calm over the phone, or would go pick him up to get him out of that environment.

Without PARS, Rawiri has no illusions about what would have happened to him. "Without PARS, where would I be? Back in prison, I guarantee it." Luckily he's managed to stay out, and his fiancée has since become his wife! Although it took time for him to pull himself out of his old life, he's very philosophical about why it took so long. "We've all got a different time in life that we have to change," says Rawiri. Now, it seems, is his time.

Rawiri is very much looking forward to getting back home after an upcoming operation. His two children with his new wife are waiting eagerly for his return, and he is keen to get back to the woman who inspired him to make a change. He has 11 other children, ranging in age right up to 40 years old, none of whom followed him into the gang. "They're all mummy's kids," says Rawiri - something you can tell he thinks is a good thing!

Although Rawiri has not fully left the gang, he says as a lifetime member he doesn't have any responsibilities anymore. "Us old boys just get waited on, and everything comes through us." Despite not leaving the gang, he is determined to stay out of prison this time. "I guarantee I'll stay out of prison this time. If I've done it this long, I know I can stay out from now on."

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons