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The Department of Corrections has apologised after an Oamaru judge blasted the lack of psychologists available to carry out sentencing requirements.
Judge Joanna Maze expressed her frustration in the Oamaru District Court last week, that Corey Reopo Douglas (30) was still waiting to see a psychologist 13 months into an 18-month intensive supervision sentence.
Douglas had been sentenced in October last year and initially told his case was not severe enough to even be placed on the waiting list to see a psychologist. When this was queried by Judge Maze before last week, he was placed on a waiting list, but with medium priority and no guarantee he would be seen before his sentence ended.
Corrections Southern Region operations director Chris O’Brien-Smith said Douglas had now been referred to the Dunedin Psychologists Office and placed on a waiting list with high priority. The referral process was being reviewed to determine how the mistake was made.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Mr Douglas for any distress he has suffered, and to the court for any inconvenience caused."
There was no evidence to suggest the situation was indicative of any larger issues within the organisation or how the system worked, she said.
Corrections psychologists carried out a variety of work, including offence-focused group therapy and one-on-one treatment for high-risk sex and violent offenders to help them reduce their risk of reoffending.
"This treatment is primarily targeted at helping people change the antisocial thoughts and behaviours that contribute to their offending behaviour," Ms O’Brien-Smith said.
Corrections’ rehabilitation programmes were among the most successful in the world and showed a reduction in the risk of reoffending. This in turn reduced the risk to communities.
Psychologists also provided expert advice and reports to the courts and the New Zealand Parole Board, as well as advice and training to Corrections staff, Ms O’Brien-Smith said.
Non-government organisation mental health providers were also contracted to offer help to people in prisons and the community experiencing mild to moderate mental health conditions. These services consisted of mental health clinicians, mental health nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers.
"These professionals work directly with people to support them to manage their mental health needs.
"They also offer informal mental health education to Corrections staff to enable them to develop confidence in supporting people with mental health needs," she said.
Clinicians could also refer people to community service agencies to help them reintegrate with their families and communities.
Questions about specific details on shortages, funding availability, wait times and waiting list numbers were referred to the Official Information Act.