National | Prison

New rehabilitation programme for offenders

Former inmate Billy Macfarlane is mentoring high-risk offenders in Rotorua in an effort to rehabilitate them back into society.

Macfarlane spent 14 years locked up in New Zealand's highest security prison.

He is now living a very different life compared to when he was behind bars.

Macfarlane has established his own programme called Puwhakamua.

He says it's aimed at high-risk offenders. Māori make up 51% of the prison population and Macfarlane says once someone is in the system it's hard for them to get out.

“I reconnect them with Māori protocols in an effort to stop them from going back to prison. I want them to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors,” says Macfarlane.

“I don't have any funding for this programme.  I've just been really keen to get it off the ground.  If you were to ask what the programme is about I'd say it teaches inmates to hold themselves in high regard”.

Macfarlane is being supported by Te Arawa Pukenga Kōeke chairman Paraone Pirika, who says he has seen a lot of families suffer as a result of inmates who find it difficult returning to society.

“There are a lot of Māori who are treated like slaves in prison and don't work well in a mainstream system, that's not a good pathway for them,” says Pirika.

Puwhakamua is a year-long programme and begins next month.