WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Prison Fellowship: a challenging and rewarding ministry

September 2014

Feature

Judy Dixon

In our communities we have an urgent need for volunteers to support newly-released prisoners using ordinary, everyday skills. Through Prison Fellowship New Zealand (PFNZ) we make a personal appeal to you to help.

PFNZ is a professionally-led, national Christian community agency made possible by volunteers. The organisation builds on programmes started in prisons and provided by people such as Sr Marie Roche, Catholic Chaplain at Rimutaka Prison, and Br Doug Dawick, from the ADW Seasons for Growth programme.

PFNZ is committed to the spiritual, moral, social and physical wellbeing of prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, crime victims and those who serve the criminal justice system. It has two main arms: BreakAway – supporting the children and families of prisoners; and BreakFree – supporting prisoners before and just after their release.

BreakFree has an urgent need of volunteers with a variety of skills and time. Our community initiative wants to link a ‘coach’ to prisoners before their release and to build a small supportive circle around them after their release in the community.

Do you have time to visit a prisoner, in prison, every month for up to a year; helping them plan their transition into the community? Maybe you have time as part of a small circle, or with other parishioners, to support the coach help prisoners with shopping, cooking, ATMs,  appointments with Work and Income or their probation office.

In BreakAway and BreakFree roles you don’t need great technical skills – just a caring heart and an ability to function in the community. PFNZ will provide you with training and support.

Here is a typical example of a prisoner referred to us with a need for some basic help and support in daily life through the BreakFree programme.
Brian has been in prison for 11 years. Five years ago he became a Christian and has continually worked at growing his faith. He is serious about wanting to make changes in his life and has completed any courses he can to address his addictive problems and to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

But Brian’s lack of social skills, resulting from a dysfunctional family background, means even though he has a strong faith and determination to be a good citizen, he is unlikely to succeed without people who can extend a simple hand of friendship. He has never experienced good relationships and has been left behind by modern society.

He has never been taught problem-solving skills but he would love to learn. Left alone and ignored by society, loneliness, desperation and hopelessness are likely to overwhelm him.

But it does not have to be like this. With a few people volunteering for a few hours to be a support, a point of contact and most of all a friend, Brian will make it and become a contributing person in the community.

Prisoners who have been supported through BreakFree as they reintegrate into society are so grateful for the support given by a few when they were most vulnerable. If you can help with coaching and supporting ex-offenders, or would like to help with our children and family activities, PFNZ would love to hear from you.

Judy Dixon, is Executive Officer with BreakFree, Prison Fellowship New Zealand.