New facility in Christchurch helping female inmates integrate back into society

Source: 1News

Reducing reoffending and providing better pathways for female inmates leaving jail is the aim of a revamped facility that opened in Christchurch today.

Odyssey House has long helped reintegrate men back into society, but now it has a wing specifically for women.

“I didn’t realise how hard it would be going from being a drug addict and doing crime and then being locked up for so long and then getting out and having to change," one former offender told 1 NEWS.

The eight-bed reintegration unit is part of a $2 million revamp of the facility. Leigh Marsh from the Department of Corrections said it was part of new strategy focusing on the unique challenges of the female prison population.

“The female prison population has been growing quite quickly compared to the men’s, traditionally we've kind of treated the female population very similar to the men’s population by actually taking a different approach to that and acknowledging the unique rehab and integrative needs of women we can better respond to that," he said.

The aim is to reduce reoffending and provide employment and study pathways.

“This is an approach to provide a step-down kind of approach from an intensive residential programme back out into the community with support, because we know that it's a risky time coming out of an intensive treatment programme back out there and there are lots of challenges and providing some support to women will ensure their recovery is stronger."

Residents do 30 hours a week of volunteering, training or work while living here. They're also able to reconnect with family.

“This has given me connection back with my kids, with myself I think that without this I would have led myself back to jail quite easily so me, I'm very grateful," another former offender said.