Senior New Zealander of the Year award Kim Workman. PHOTO/FILE
Greytown’s Kim Workman has been named Senior New Zealander of the Year for his work in New Zealand’s criminal justice system and contribution towards mentoring released prisoners.
Mr Workman’s lengthy career in the criminal justice system began at the age of 17 when he became a police cadet.
From there he went on to investigate complaints made by prisoners to the Ombudsman’s office, before becoming the head of the national prison service in 1989.
He said the combination of all these experiences brought him to a point in 1993 where he felt the criminal justice system was not working.
“It was in fact increasing offending by the treatment of prisoners,” he said.
In 2000 he established the first faith-based prison unit in the Commonwealth, providing a mentoring programme for released prisoners before forming Justspeak in 2008, a non-partisan network of young people seeking change in New Zealand’s criminal justice system.
Now in his 78th year, he said he had done a lot of research and had constantly worked with gang members and prisoners in an attempt to spark change.
“It’s a lovely recognition of that,” he said of the award.
Mr Workman said the timing of the award was what was most special to him, coming as at “an important time in history” after the government announced its plans for justice reform this week, which he would see sentencing law relaxed.
“New Zealand is a very punitive country, they want to see people punished to the extreme so people are spending far too long in prisons which actually makes them more likely to commit crime when they leave,” he said.
“[Thursday’s] announcement by [Justice Minister] Andrew Little that they weren’t going to continue doing the same stuff they have been doing for 30 years is really almost the justification of all the talking and writing that I’ve been doing over that time.”