Community says no to convicted offenders

By Oriini Kaipara

The Department of Corrections has confirmed that no convicted child sex offenders will be placed in a residential community in Gisborne.

But local residents remain fearful, claiming the reintegration of ex-prisoners into a family neighbourhood is intolerable.

Sisters Mandy and Paige are fearful of remaining in their homes and had a firm message for Corrections.

“You people are safe in your homes.  You go home at night.  If you were to put people in here to monitor these people, they go home at night.  We don’t go home at night.  This is our home and you’re threatening it.  What are you thinking?” says Mandy.

The proposed plan will see three to four ex-prisoners housed in the suburban street as part of Corrections’ Out of Gate programme, which aims to successfully transition offenders back into the wider community following the end of their sentences.

In a statement to Māori Television’s Native Affairs, the department said no decision had been made on who would live at the address or when.

"No offender would be permitted to reside at an address if it was considered that the risk could not be safely managed and public safety upheld.  The reality is that without supported accommodation, these offenders would be homeless, which would present an unacceptable safety risk to communities.”

The words have provided little comfort to local 75-year-old Pat, who has gathered 900 signatures in a petition to stop and move the halfway house to a more rural location.

"They're not banking for people like me.  They're banking for people who are going to go, 'oh what can we do about it?  It's the government, we can do nothing.’  We're not going away,” says Pat.

More information on Corrections' reintegration approach can be found here.

The community's fight will air on Native Affairs tonight (Monday) at 8pm.