Mentoring helps ex-prisoner re-enter society and make the most of life
Few people consider the challenges that people face when they emerge from prison. Luckily PARS Inc (based in Mt Eden, Auckland) and some fantastic mentors are on hand to help prisoners adjust to life in the real world.
PARS facilitates a mentoring programme in which people who have
come out of long stints in prison are paired with a helpful citizen
who can aid them in getting their life back on track, and staying
on the right side of the law.
Murray Young and Hare* are one such pair. Murray is a former
member of the NZ Fire Service Commission, an ex-Queen's bailiff
with the Ministry of Justice who has also worked in real estate,
giving him a huge range of skills and great knowledge of people and
their body language. Hare spent several years in prison, and
earlier this year was sent back into society without the skills to
deal with changes within 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, with many of these activities using fairly new
technologies. Murray's role was to teach him the skills to take on
these tasks, and equip him with the confidence he needed to get
back into society.
Says Murray, "he had a fear of being reintroduced to society and
felt extremely out of place." To get over this anxiety, Murray's
solution was to take him to a shopping centre where he was
unfamiliar with everyone, and, in Hare's words, "chuck me in the
deep end of the pool." These days, Hare is "much more comfortable,"
and has no issues being around other people.
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." Having a
mentor helps them stay out of prison. Says Hare, "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, ostracised from society. What PARS and
their mentors do is demonstrate that there is life after prison,
and that reoffending is not the only choice.
PARS assisted Hare through their Supported Accommodation
Service, with food, and dealing with WINZ. Murray has had a huge
impact on Hare's life, helping him to find jobs, working on his
interview skills, teaching him to cook, and even helping him try 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.
Mentoring with PARS hasn't been a one way street either -
Murrays says "to date, 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." The aim, for Murray, is to show Hare a normal way of
life so that he can integrate 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. The most
important thing for a mentor to have, according to Murray? "An open
mind. There's good in everybody, you just have to find it."
Tui Ah Loo, Executive Director of PARS, explains "all people
benefit if we mentor people coming out of prison and help them stay
out of prison. The person re-entering society, the mentor, and
society - all are better off because of this programme." For Hare,
PARS and Murray have been and are still instrumental in keeping him
positive and ensuring that he doesn't go back to prison. "When I
have problems, I tell PARS and they get me back on track."
Want to make a difference like Murray?
Community mentors make a huge difference in the lives of
- Assisting dislocated released prisoners in the
(re)establishment of networks to successfully reintegrate back into
- Helping released prisoners navigate their lives
- Being a positive role model to released prisoners, helping
enhance pro-social skills
- Supporting released prisoners with healthy
Become a mentor with PARS to positively transform the lives of
ex-prisoners and make a real difference in the community. Email
Volunteer Coordinator Ruth at email@example.com or call 09 947
6185 (direct dial) or 09 630 0862 (office) to begin changing lives
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons