Prisoners' rehab service continues

The cancellation of a major contract for assisting prisoners to reintegrate into society will not spell the end of a 133-year-old Dunedin charitable organisation.

"I'm not saying it's not a blow, but it is only a part of the work we do. We will find other projects for aiding prisoners and their families. The future as an organisation is perfectly sound," the chairman of the board of trustees for the Prisoner Aid and Rehabilitation Society (Otago), David Sim, said.

After 51 years, the annual $2.5 million contract between the Department of Corrections and the New Zealand Prisoner Aid and Rehabilitation Society (NZPars) ended on Wednesday.

The department said it ended the contract because NZPars was "unable to demonstrate to us the financial stability that was required" after spending $300,000 more than it was given over the three years to June last year.

Pars Otago, a separate charitable society, provided reintegrative services to Otago prisoners and their families, on contract to NZPars.

Financial statements show the contract was worth about $80,000 a year to Pars Otago, just under a third of its total annual income.

An interim agreement has been negotiated to keep funding Pars Otago for the service for the next six months, but after that national reintegrative services will be put out for tender.

Mr Sim said this week the end of the contract did not mean the end of Pars Otago. In fact, it was business as usual for the next six months.

The organisation had another direct contract with Corrections to provide other services for prisoners and their families, and it provided other services funded by grants and donations.

Over the next months, the organisation's board of directors would investigate alternative projects and where it might look for funding for them.

There was also the possibility that Pars Otago could work with whichever national provider won the tender for reintegrative services.

"At this stage, it's pretty unclear about what the future will be."

Although the organisation was financially "quite happy", if no alternative work was identified and funding found, there was the possibility that a full-time employee and a half-time employee with Pars Otago would go, he said.

"But we are desperately trying to find alternatives so that does not happen, come September."


PARS

• Pars provides practical support to prisoners and their families during and after jail sentences, including helping in court, finding housing and jobs, and reintegration with families.
• The organisation has its roots in Dunedin, where it has operated for 133 years, originally as part of the Patients' and Prisoners' Aid Society Otago. The latter charitable society also still operates in Dunedin.

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