It’s not OK in prisons

Thanks in large part to the initiative of delegate Marshall Tangaroa and organiser Sheryl Cooney, PSA members are involved in a pilot project with the Department of Corrections and the It’s Not OK campaign to raise awareness in the workplace about family violence.

Corrections family violence workshop

Corrections staff at the training day

The idea was planted at the PSA Congress in 2012 when delegates voted to back the It’s Not OK campaign. Marshall suggested they start with prison staff and reach out to prisoners as well.

“We come across a lot of people in prisons who experience family violence, both abusers and victims. We’re trying to raise awareness and learning how to take the opportunity to ask those hard questions.”

Sheryl says an important part of the programme is building a network of trained violence-prevention champions for all prisons. “They will have the skills to support victims of violence and to challenge abusive behaviours.”

“We want to get family violence talked about and out from behind closed doors.”

The project is being fully supported by Corrections management. This has included paid release for a training day held in May this year for violence-prevention champions.

Kasimilo Mekaio, a Corrections officer at Rimutaka prison, took part in the training to be an It’s Not OK violence-prevention champion.

He grew up in a community where family violence was the norm but he decided it wasn’t the way it was going to be for his family, either his partner or his two small daughters.

“It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be brought out in the open and spoken about, not hidden. The more people who talk about it, the more they will say, this really is not OK.”

Janine Trethewey, a nurse at Manawatu prison, also put her hand up to be an It’s Not OK champion.

“I think this is a hugely important programme,” she says.

“As champions, we will be making sure our colleagues are OK and helping them in the right direction if they’re not. Having a nursing background helps as I already know some of the agencies in my community.”


This article is from the June 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.