Current and new projects

Exciting announcement: Borrin Foundation funding research into alternative models for women's prisons

August 2021

At some stage in the 1990s, the barbed wire fairies visited all New Zealand prisons, wrapping them in razor wire and turning them into high security compounds.  It is our view that this change also altered the internal disposition of prisons.  The focus inevitably switched to key-holding and containment,an expensive but morally bereft model.  Instead of teaching our prisoners to become self-regulating individuals, a skill they will need to function on the outside, a new level of top-down management was instilled.

This new project uses the international model of women's open prisons to question, challenge and define what a modern women's prison, especially in Aotearoa, where two thirds of women prisoners are Māori, might look like.  We are keen to have a national conversation, along with our research, in the latter half of 2021. Use the contact page to get in touch.

Delivery of services and advocacy within Canterbury Community Law

Community Law Centres provide low-level advice and support to people who cannot afford paid lawyers. They take some cases and work with communities to support them in tiems of need (such as the 2019 Mosque attacks and the Christcurch earthquakes). But there are still many access gaps in areas of law such as immigration, family, ACC, benefits, debt and employment, to name but a few. This new project will examine the outstanding justice and advocacy issues in a range of 

Open prisons for Aotearoa?

Is it time to redesign our prison sector to be more humane and focussed on changing prisoners' lives rather than warehousing them?  Looking at Open Prisons overseas, we examine, through research, what the NZ prison system might learn from such models. The starting point is women's prisons.

Family friendly prisons international project

We are working with an international team in the USA and UK, through the International Coalition for the Children of Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP), to develop a survey of child and family friendly practices and policies in prisons around the world.  The survey is ongoing.

Completed projects

Analysis of effectiveness of Sale of Alcohol Act 2012 and District Licensing Committees

Following on from last year's successful HPA -funded study of access to justice for objectors to alcohol licence applications, this study looks more broadly at whether the legislation and regulatory processes are working effectively.  Key concerns are potential unevenness between areas.

Law school longitudinal survey  - complete!

We continue to provide survey services to the UC Law School longitudinal study of law students.  Now in its fifth year, some of the participants have completed their degrees and are moving into further study or out into the workforce. 

HPA study of access to legal advice for communities

This study included four regional case studies of communities contesting the proliferation of alcohol outlets in their areas.  Many issues were raised about the functioning of the legislation and regulatory processes, and a further study is now underway.

Loves me Not programme against family violence 2013

This programme evaluation is taking place in mid-2013. A family violence prevention programme involving the teaching of healthy relationships is being piloted in nine secondary schools to Year 12 students. The project team includes the police, MSD and Sophie Elliott Foundation. The impact evaluation - part two of the project - should be completed by the end of September.

An analysis of prison reintegration services in Canterbury 2013

This project is funded by the Lotteries Community Sector Research fund to the Howard League.  It has three parts: an analysis of existing services in the region, a literature review of ideal service provision, and a strengths and gaps analysis.  It is particularly interesting to be doing this work at a time when the Departmetn of Corrections is reviewing its own services, and is looking to progressive and effective options.

Victims Voices project, Ministry of Justice 2012.

This project is now complete.

Improving the effectiveness of large-class teaching in law degrees

Liz Gordon acted as mentor, surveyor and focus group co-ordinator for this project. Based at the University of Canterbury, a group of law lecturers sought views on teaching methods in the large compulsory classes.  While students like the more questioning and active methods of learning, as opposed to listening to lectures, views were divided over online learning and other approaches.  The problem for the staff now is how to incorporate a more active learning approach in huge lecture theatres.

Maori children of prisoners research, November 2011

tpk_report.jpgThis report has made a real splash, and, as noted on the news page, has led the Minister of Maori Affairs to call for a Ministerial Review.

The report reviews data on the pathways followed by the children in this study, which seems to explain the fact that the children of prisoners have a strongly increased likelihood of ending up in prison. One concern is that the precursor factors -emotional harm, anger, stress, disengagement from schooling, poor health and inadequate resources – are relatively easy to identify, but rarely acted upon by social agencies.

The agencies of health and education do not appear to have the capacity to resolve these problems. The result is that the society is condemned to continual increases in prison numbers, with many tamariki Māori set to populate those additional places.

None of this is inevitable. The findings of this study – the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand - shows where many of the problems lie and what kind of interventions may be successful. Community engagement, more effective health and education interventions and a justice system that is mindful of the needs of the children, can together go a long way towards reducing intergenerational imprisonment

The causes of, and solutions to, intergenerational crime, August 2011

This is the final report of the Study of the Children of Prisoners, a two year research project sponsored by Pillars.  A model of research for policy and practice, this report has received a lot of attention among multiple government agencies.  We have undertaken around ten seminars across agencies in Wellington, presenting our findings and the implications for policy and practice.

Education and the law, information for school principals, September 2011

We spent several months in 2011 working with Community Law Canterbury and some senior law students, updating the structure and content of the Education and the Law website, which is part of the Educational Leaders site sponsored by the Ministry of Education.  Find it here.

Practice manual for working with the children of prisoners, November 2010

Written for social and justice agencies, the practice manual arises from the children of prisoners research.  The manual reports the research findings, explores the implications and provides suggestions for good practice.  Written by Lesley MacGibbon, Verna McFelin and Liz Gordon.

Invisible children, December 2009

The first year report of the study of the children of prisoners, this report provides the best overview of the detailed findings in relation to health, education, economic and social factors and the causes of intergeneration transmission of crime.

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