How police and probation harass prisoners on parole – the case of Tony Maude

In 2007 I was asked by the district court to conduct an alcohol and drug assessment on Tony Maude who was facing charges of selling methamphetamine. Maude was exposed to drug use at an early age. He started smoking cannabis at the age of 10, using speed at 13 and drinking at age 15. When he was 22, he attended rehab at the Salvation Army and managed to get his drinking under control.  But it wasn’t long before he started using methamphetamine instead and eventually began selling it to feed his habit.

He got busted by police and was sentenced him to prison for six years. Mr Maude knew he needed help and while in prison, he attended individual counselling for 18 months and was then admitted to the Drug Treatment Unit. He successfully completed the programme and was released on parole in May 2010 – after serving more than three years in prison. But police and probation wouldn’t leave him alone. Since being released, Mr Maude has been recalled to prison four times to finish serving his sentence.

First recall

As part of his parole conditions, Maude was required to attend another rehabilitation programme in the community. He was half way through this when he was asked by the programme facilitators to describe a potential high-risk situation and how he would cope with it.  He made one up and described an imaginary situation in such a realistic way, that the facilitators thought it had actually occurred and passed the story on to probation. Instead of checking the details, his probation officer immediately told the police Mr Maude had breached his parole conditions. Police arrested him and sent him back to prison. When Mr Maude appeared at the recall hearing a month later, it was clear to the Board that the facilitators, the Probation Service and the police had all got it wrong – and ordered Mr Maude to be released.

Probation then tried to breach him for failing to complete the rehabilitation course (because he was in prison) and hauled him back into court. His probation officer received a serious reprimand from the judge for his treatment of Mr Maude and for wasting the court’s time.

Second recall

When he got out, Maude went to live with a friend at an approved address. He had only been there about a month when his mother died after a long battle with cancer. But his probation officer didn’t care. He was miffed at being told off by the judge and now had it in for Mr Maude. Shortly thereafter the police raided the house pretending they were looking for methamphetamine.

Police found a cannabis plant growing in a wardrobe – in the bedroom where his friend slept – who was also the owner of the house. They arrested Mr Maude and sent him back to prison – but didn’t arrest his friend who owned the cannabis plant. The friend appeared at the recall hearing a month later and testified that the cannabis plant belonged to him not to Mr Maude. For a second time, the parole board agreed that Mr Maude had not reoffended and released him immediately.

Third recall

During the ten months that Mr Maude had been on parole, he started going out with a female friend he had known for many years.  His probation officer was aware of the relationship and had even let them go on holiday together. He gave Mr Maude special permission not to report into him during the week they were away. About a week after his second recall hearing, Mr Maude and his partner became engaged.

By now he had a different probation officer. Feeling happy about his engagement, he told his new probation officer the good news. Three days later, he and his fiancée were both served with a non-association order. After being honest with probation about his situation, Mr Maude ‘felt gutted’. Nevertheless, he stayed away from his fiancée and the relationship came to an end.

Mr Maude had also told his probation officer that he had some work organised doing up cars and asked for permission to start.  His probation officer gave him the go ahead.  Lo and behold, a few days later, the police came to the property where he was working. They found Mr Maude and rang probation to check that he was allowed to be there.  The probation officer told the police officer it had been approved and he was allowed to work.

Later that night, Mr Maude’s sister rang him up and told him that the armed offenders’ squad had been round to her house wanting to arrest him.  Mr Maude turned himself in six weeks later and the Probation service told the Parole Board he had been “working without written permission”. This time the Board officially recalled him to prison – even though the Corrections Department is supposed to help prisoners find work because  having a job on release reduces the risk of re-offending.

Fourth recall

Since working on parole was a minor breach, Mr Maude was eventually released again – still on parole for his original offending (selling meth). This time, he lived with friends at an approved address in Seaview.  However, he began to get depressed because the house was unsuitable to bring his children to. (On top of all his other problems, Mr Maude had also been trying to gain custody of his five year old daughter in the Family court.) Mr Maude was also beginning to feel that no matter what he did, the police and the probation service seemed to be out to get him.  He bumped into a friend who offered him a smoke of methamphetamine. In a moment of weakness, he accepted the offer – and started using again.

Eventually Mr Maude found a nice three-bedroom home where he could have his children and the probation service approved the accommodation. He had only been in the house for three weeks when he was raided by the police – yet again.  This time they found a small amount of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty and was returned to prison to serve out the remainder of his original sentence

Recommendation to the Court

Ever since he was first released, on parole Mr Maude has been harassed by the police and probation service. During this time, his mother died, his engagement broke up and his ex-partner took off to Christchurch with his daughter and the police raided every house he stayed at.

Mr Maude relapsed under the overwhelming stress of this combined series of events. In my report to the Court, I concluded that, although he relapsed, Mr Maude does not require any further drug treatment. “What he needs to be left alone by the police and probation service to get on with his life.” (Posted with Mr Maude’s permission.)

Corrections Department’s treatment of Stewart Murray Wilson

Graeme Burton spent 14 years in prison  – doing next to nothing – before he was released and killed Karl Kuchenbecker. Murray Wilson, aka the ‘Beast of Blenheim’ –  committed his crimes well over 18 years ago. He’s been sitting in prison ever since – also doing nothing – and the whole country (well, Wanganui anyway) is up in arms. Why? The ‘doing nothing’ in prison seems to be the problem.

For many years Wilson was held in Rolleston Prison, a low-security prison with a sex offenders unit that delivers group-based treatment to child sex offenders – just what Wilson needed.  But  Corrections refused to put him into this programme because he would not acknowledge  his guilt. That’s very strange considering the entry criteria for this programme state that “denial or other cognitive distortions related to offending behaviour” are an indication of suitability for the programme.

Wilson clearly lacks insight, but it seems Corrections wouldn’t even let him see a psychologist. Speaking via video link to the High Court at Wellington in June 2012, Wilson complained, not for the first time, that he had even been denied counselling with a psychologist for the same reason – he would not admit he was guilty. He said he has had only four hours counselling in the 18 years he has been in prison.

Dealing with denial

Being ‘in denial’ is not uncommon and is often an issue when dealing with drug addicts and alcoholics.  ‘Ambivalence’ is similar – a state of mind where the drinker or drug user is aware they have a problem but is not yet willing to address it.  Alcohol and drug counsellors work with ambivalence and denial on a daily basis by using ‘motivational interviewing’ – individual counselling designed to enhance insight and motivation. It requires a non-confrontational approach to the client and the ability to ‘roll with resistance.’ Once rapport has been established using these techniques, then more in-depth treatment can begin.

Unfortunately, it seems Corrections psychologists were not able to establish rapport with Wilson. He refused to even meet with the psychologist who wrote the final damning risk assessment on him and so she prepared her report from information on his file.  Apart from the dubious ethics involved in writing a report without talking to the subject of that report, why would Wilson not want to meet with her? Probably because Corrections psychologists are generally employed to write risk assessment reports rather than provide therapy – and she had already written a number of negative reports about him.   That’s probably where the ‘four hours counselling’ went that Wilson was referring to. Clearly there was not a lot of trust between Wilson and this particular psychologist.

Wilson’s background

This is not surprising. Wilson comes from a background that makes it very hard for him to trust anyone. His parents were both alcoholics and it appears he was sexually abused as a child himself.   As a teenager he was hospitalised for a long period in psychiatric institutions, and had little in the way of education. Given his personal limitations, that puts the onus on Corrections psychologists to make more of an effort. But they didn’t. They appear to have met with him only four times in 18 years and declared him unco-operative. They wouldn’t allow him to attend any counselling or attend treatment in the sex offenders unit unless he admitted his guilt.

The most pathetic part of  this farce is that Corrections claims it cannot compel offenders to attend rehabilitation programmes. That makes no sense at all. The police have the power to arrest criminals; the court has the power to send them to prison; but Corrections claims that once in prison they can’t compel anyone do a programme. That’s bullshit.  He’s in prison for God’s sake – attendance should be compulsory – especially when international research indicates that compulsory treatment is just as effective as voluntary treatment. The same research also shows that long term programmes work better than short-term programmes – because they give an offender time to become engaged in the process.  That’s why the sex offenders’ programme is the longest the Department provides  – it takes nine months and reduces the risk of re-offending by more than 50 per cent.

Setting offenders up to fail

Unfortunately, Corrections never gave Wilson a chance. They seemed to think he had  to have the necessary insight and motivation right from the start.  That’s just totally unrealistic.  The majority of offenders are also alcoholics or drug addicts who are often unmotivated, in denial or ambivalent at the start of a rehabilitation programme – but become engaged once it gets going.

The reality is that Corrections was responsible for rehabilitating Wilson but made almost no effort to do so.  All they did with him in prison is isolate and contain him – for 18 years. Now he’s being released to Wanganui under the most stringent conditions ever imposed on anyone ever released in New Zealand. That’s  more containment. The people of Wanganui have made it very clear they don’t want him. That’s more isolation.

Someone who knows something about rehabilitation is Victoria University Professor, Tony Ward, a clinical psychologist with expertise in sexual offenders.  He described the fervour at Wanganui’s public meetings as a type of “moral panic” and said that given Mr Wilson’s age, he was unlikely to reoffend.  “The reoffending rate for very high risk people over 60 is about six per cent.” Professor Ward said the best way to rehabilitate sex offenders was to keep them in the midst of other people – where they could be watched – and give them support.”

This is all so familiar. Graeme Burton committed two murders under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Corrections had him in their custody for 14 years and never put him into a programme to address the core issue – his drug addiction.  They also ignored the recommendations of six expert reports pointing out that drug use was a risk factor for Burton and did not bother to provide the Board with an alcohol and drug assessment on him despite a statutory obligation to keep the Board informed about all aspects of his offending.

The Department had Wilson in custody for even longer – 18 years, and they’ve done exactly the same thing – nothing.  One can only conclude that Corrections is deliberately setting up Murray Wilson to fail – just like they did with Graeme Burton.