Ex-offender Narratives: Revealing the Experience and Success of a Halfway House in Aotearoa New Zealand
In Aotearoa New Zealand, consultation of the halfway house resident is absent from the literature, omitting the true experience of resettling in this environment upon release from prison. Halfway housing as a solution to the difficulty ex prisoners have attaining accommodation has been historically operated by community groups in Aotearoa New Zealand. Narratives are often dismissed as academic data and are undervalued in Criminology. Narrative in an Aotearoa New Zealand context is particularly relevant as the indigenous population value storytelling as taonga. Kaupapa aligned narrative criminology ensures protection of the participant, while eliciting a rich and empowered narrative. This is particular to the vulnerable residents of a halfway home. While it ensures protection, it also allows them to have ownership of their story and narrative identity. Using this methodology; six residents of a halfway house were interviewed and their narratives documented. From these narratives, it was determined how the experience residing in a halfway house influenced their narrative identity and encouraged their desistance from crime. Initial results found that participant conversion to a religious narrative identity assisted in shame management, while providing the framework for forgiveness and redemption. The halfway house organisation provided opportunity for the participants to earn their redemption, and to practise ‘giving back’ to the community they were once removed from. Finally, the house environment provided them constant prosocial and peer support, which allowed participants to cut ties with their criminal past, share lived experiences and exist without being isolated or judged. This is significant when considering reintegrative policy. It has shown that supported accommodation needs to be more than providing an ex-prisoner with shelter where they are easily supervised. Successful supported accommodation has the potential to reduce the reoffending rate and increase safety in the community.