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Prison With Flowers, Bushes and Aromatic Herbs

Prison With Flowers, Bushes and Aromatic Herbs

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 - 08:00
New Zealand Prison's garden.
Wellington - Asharq Al-Awsat
Its fields are lined with natural bushes, aromatic herbs and flowers, and the ground is paved with pebbles and gray rock tiles to cool the place. In the middle of the open open-air arena, a small hill covered with light green grass lures visitors to sit above it and gently tap it, while the water gently flows from a rocky cliff with a distant sound.

This tranquil sensory garden is designed to stimulate the senses through roses, bushes, grasses and other wonderful landscape features. This garden is not in a health center for relaxation and wellness, but in a prison where inmates are among the most dangerous criminals in New Zealand and will most likely resume their criminal activities after completing their sentences. This space makes part of a new wing that has been opened in Auckland Prison, which hosts only fierce criminals and imposes the most stringent security measures.

According to the German News Agency, the new facilities also include a basketball court, a computer hall, rooms for vocational training, and a kiosk with a fingerprint scanner that allows prisoners to buy personal items including drinks and greeting cards.

"This old, heavily guarded prison was built 50 years ago and has been designed for a different time and purpose than ours," explains New Zealand’s Corrections chief executive Ray Smith.

Each jail cell of the new building located in the prison that houses 260 of New Zealand's most dangerous criminals, is equipped with a window and a bathroom with a shower, along with a TV with free channels and customized programs tackling subjects like child rearing, hearings about the early release of prisoners, and yoga, which is unfamiliar for them.

"Technology has changed, and the way we offer rehabilitation and support to prisoners with mental health problems has changed," Smith says.

"It is very important to have the right people who provide appropriate treatment in a safe, therapeutic and humane environment," Smith notes.

The new advanced prison building, which cost NZ $300 million (U.S. $199 million), has a 50-bed in a mental health unit for inmates with significant mental health needs.

New Zealand is currently burdened by an increasing number of prison inmates, and while crime rates have been at their lowest since the late 1970s, the Pacific country has been increasingly aggressive about crime.

This situation led the country to record one of the highest prison rates in the 36-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). If the number of prisoners continues to increase at this current high rate, the government will have to build a new prison every two to three years to contain all those sentenced to imprisonment.

Noteworthy, Maori, the indigenous population of New Zealand, is among the groups that have a large number of prisoners. Although this community accounts for 14.6% of the total population, it represents 51% of the country's inmates.

"Efforts to improve the inhumane conditions in New Zealand prisons are welcome, because our prison buildings are not good enough," says Tania Sawicki Mead of JustSpeak, a New York-based justice reform organization.

"Facilities that support mental health and learning will improve people's chances of recertification, help them reintegrate into their communities, reduce the return of prisoners to criminal activities after their release, and improve the final results for all of us," she added.

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