The Kea Project, a project about redesigning spaces in prisons which children see, so they feel safe and less anxious when they come to visit a loved one in prison, was a finalist in the 2023 Public Service Commission Spirit of Service Awards.

Hawkes Bay Regional Prison Director George Massingham said the Hawke’s Bay Kea Project began in February 2019, with painting finishing in November 2019.

“Unfortunately, Covid-19 delayed project completion until November 2021,” Massingham said.

“However, since the project went live it has been well received by prisoners and their whānau. You can truly see and feel the difference. The space has been transformed to feel safer and more positive, enabling the men to build better connections with their children.”

He said the children that visited the prison were the “invisible victims of crime”.

“Many experience prolonged loss of connection with a loved one and don’t understand why their loved one has gone away. They may have witnessed their loved one be arrested or carry unnecessary feelings of guilt. The Kea Project helps these children to understand it is not their fault.”

The visiting spaces are painted with visual stories involving a kaitiaki (guardian) character, which best represents the local area.

Massingham said Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison chose a kāhu (hawk) as their kaitiaki.

“The kaitiaki is a friend to children while they visit prison and also appears in a kete they take home,” he said.

“One of the pieces in the kete is a storybook, where the kaitiaki tells a story of what a child might experience when they visit a prison.”

The Kea Project was originally developed by the High Impact Innovation Programme Lead Designer Kelsey Gee, as part of her Massey University Honours Project.

It was then picked up in 2018 by the High Impact Innovation Programme and Corrections has been working to adapt and implement it across the country since.

The Kea Project team at each site is made up of Corrections staff, mana whenua, and management staff, and parents whose children visit them in prison.

“In designing the space, we work with mana whenua to understand the stories that associate with the area and the land where the prison is based,” Massingham said.

“The people in prison involved in the project also play a huge role in developing the vision and coming up with the designs for the spaces.”

The Kea Project has been implemented at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison, Whanganui Prison, Manawatu Prison and Otago Corrections Facility. It is also currently being implemented at Auckland Region Women’s Correction Facility and Christchurch Women’s Prison. 

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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