Corrections is planning to house “high-risk” parolees – some of whom may have sexually offended against children – in a residential facility between two South Auckland schools.
The proposal has sparked alarm among the local community, with fears children and families could be put at risk.
But Corrections says the nine men living at the facility will undergo a “careful and robust” assessment, and the department is confident the risks can be safely managed.
“Residents at the property may have at least one conviction for sexually offending against children,” Northern region operations director Julie Harrison confirmed.
“We know that the location of people convicted of offending against children are a concern for communities, and we work hard to balance this concern with our obligation to safely manage people who are lawfully required to be released from prison.”
The facility is planned on Ararimu Rd in Drury, somewhere between Ararimu and Ramarama schools, though the exact location hasn’t been disclosed.
It will provide wrap-around support as the parolees are reintegrated into the community following their release.
A spokesman for Ararimu School told the Herald Corrections had held meetings with school officials and concerned residents.
He said there were numerous questions around what supervision would be provided and what would happen if something went wrong.
“Like all schools and communities, when you hear a Corrections facility is being built in close proximity you have questions.”
The spokesman said the school had been told the facility would provide residential care for high risk, complex needs offenders “which could include those on parole who had offended against children”.
“It is a concern. If these people are there how do you monitor them?”
The proposal had provoked considerable discussion on social media about whether the placement of the facility was appropriate.
“They’re saying high and complex needs. They’ve already been through treatment and they’ve been released. But still, do you need to put someone who may have offended against children between two schools?”
The school felt discussions with Corrections had been more about “notification” rather than “consultation”.
Ramarama School board of trustees chair Aaron Farr the school had received little information about the plan other than what was on social media.
He understood the facility was “quite close” and could be up and running by the end of June.
The school’s primary concern was the safety of its children.
“With so many properties available why choose one between two schools?”
A local resident said there were fears the facility would be located near where children were picked up or dropped off to school and that it could see an increase in crime or gang activity.
In a statement Harrison said the facility was earmarked for a former meat works in a rural/residential area with no clear view of neighbouring properties.
The closest school was 2.1km away.
“Public safety is our top priority, and no person would be permitted to reside at the property if we considered their risk could not be safely managed and public safety upheld.
“It is important to remember that these residents would otherwise be in the community without this level of quality wrap-around support, while serving a community-based sentence, such as home detention. Without a residential service like this, it is likely that these men would be at a higher risk of reoffending.”
Residents would be required to comply with conditions set by the court or Parole Board, including curfews, GPS and electronic monitoring and not consuming drugs or alcohol.
The facility would be staffed 24/7 by Manaaki Support Services, a subsidiary of Goodwood Park Healthcare Group. Residents would also be monitored by Community Corrections and Probation officers.
“We do not anticipate an increase in crime rates or gang activity in Ramarama as a result of the proposed service. We work closely with local and regional Police and have many residential services like this set up throughout New Zealand and we have not observed an increase in crime or gang activity in neighbourhoods as a result of these.”
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