Topics: Crime, Politics

Corrections forced to apologise for banning offenders from course

By Talisa Kupenga

Corrections has been forced to apologise for banning offenders from a course designed to help rehabilitate them- despite the government's sweeping justice reform which aims to reduce recidivism rates. 

Three offenders were kicked off the Pūwhakamua course in Rotorua, one of which was ordered by a judge to attend as part of his bail conditions.

Billy MacFarlane, former drug lord and inmate turned mentor to offenders, started the Pūwhakamua course to keep men out of jail.

"It's a cultural programme and I'm just trying to do something good for the Māori people."

But without warning or explanation three of MacFarlane's students were banned from the course by corrections. 

Harley Adlam got a midnight visit from police on Tuesday warning him not to attend.

Adlam says, "They came around and they said that I had breached due to being absent from my address but I was at course."

Bizarrely, Adlam has been ordered by judge to attend the course as part of his bail conditions.

"I am confused a little bit because I've been ordered by the judge to attend the course and you know I don't want to go back to jail in a hurry or at all."

MacFarlane says, "I spoke to a kaumātua a couple of days ago and I said 'Matua, why is it so hard to be good?'  I mean all my life it's been so easy to be  naughty and now I've decided I actually don't want to be naughty anymore and I want to do something good.  It's just sometimes, it gets really hard."

The students were banned selectively over three weeks but yesterday after MacFarlane and Te Kāea raised concerns, within 12 hours of the police visit cCorrections apologised to Billy, reinstating all his students.

MacFarlane says, "A bit of me feels a little bullied by community corrections for lots of reasons."

MacFarlane's aim is in line with government goals of justice reform and reducing reoffending but he says this situation put these men at risk.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says, "I need to speak with my officials to understand what exactly has happened here."

In a statement Department of Corrections Deputy National Commissioner Andy Milne told Te Kāea:

“Community Corrections had raised some concerns about the course, as it had not been assessed for its safety or suitability.  As a result, an interim decision was made to remove offenders from the programme pending assessment of the material covered during the course.”

That's despite the course already running for two months.

Davis knew nothing about the issue.

He says, "It is an operational matter so I do not know all the details."

MacFarlane says one of the men booted off the course had already made positive change having changed his plea to guilty, taking responsibility for his actions.

That's the kind of work MacFarlane and his students say they’re looking forward to getting back to without these distractions.