You are here: Home Publications Previous publications 1997 The Evaluation of the Home Detention Pilot Programme 4 The impacts of home detention

4 The impacts of home detention

Contents
4.1 The impacts on the detainees
4.1.1 Relationships
4.1.2 Work
4.1.3 Income
4.1.4 The impact of the electronic monitoring on detainees
4.1.5 Daily activities
4.1.6 Formal programmes
4.1.7 How home detention compared with prison
4.1.8 The overall effect of home detention on detainees
4.2 The impacts on the families
4.2.1 Benefits
4.2.2 Burdens
4.2.3 Impacts of the electronic monitoring on families
4.2.4 Changes to household income
4.3 The impacts on the workplace
4.4 Impacts on the home detention officers
4.5 The impacts of home detention: Key Points


4 ~ The impacts of home detention

This chapter outlines the impacts of home detention on the detainees, the families, the workplace, and on the home detention officers.


 
4.1 The impacts on the detainees

This section describes the impacts of home detention on the detainees' relationships with their families and others, on their work and their income, and on their daily activities. It describes the effect of electronic monitoring, the detainees' comparisons of home detention with prison, and gives the views of the families on the overall effect of home detention on the detainees.

Unless otherwise stated, the information is taken from the first interviews with detainees which were carried out between the sixth and twelfth week the home detention period. Detainees gave the richest information about the impact of the programme on them during these interviews. Their comments relate to their experiences up to and including the time when the interview took place. It is possible that their views may have changed by the time they completed the home detention period. Nevertheless the nineteen detainees who gave follow up interviews tended to endorse their earlier comments.


 
4.1.1 Relationships

All but five of the detainees spoke positively of their relationship with their families since being on home detention. Most acknowledged that their family was their primary source of support during the home detention period.

Parents - Ten of the home detainees went home to live with their parent(s), some for the first time in a number of years. All but a few found this positive. For some it was a time to get to know their parents again and for others a chance to give something back for the support they had received during their trial and imprisonment.

It has got me back with my parents and family. That's been great and I have been able to help them out painting the house..... They probably know me a lot better and I know them a lot better; there were a lot of things I didn't know about them..... Now living with them I have had to learn to be patient and tolerant with them ... and realised why - because they are elderly. I knew I would have to have patience with them - no swearing and that. It was a culture shock you know [but] I was prepared for it.

Home detention has given us a chance to sort out a lot of stuff we couldn't do in prison. Yesterday the family decided to get out there and have a game of football. A ten minute game that turned into an hour and a half. That was the first time we got together as a family and had a bit of a laugh.

My parents ...have provided somewhere to live... They put up with all the inconveniences and conditions. I can help look after them - it has taken a load off my brother.

A few younger detainees found the stress of home confinement caused some conflict between themselves and their parents, and one regretted returning to parents.

We've had a few bad moments...You get on each other's nerves and that.

I want to be my own man. I just don't like being here. I'd rather come and visit them when I want to... It was the only address I could give.

Partner - Fifteen detainees went home to live with a partner. All but two spoke positively of this although a few observed that the constant contact caused some tension at times. One relationship became strained because the limitations of home detention meant the detainee could not find the work he wanted and contribute financially to the household. Some were grateful for the opportunity to rebuild relationships after the separation of imprisonment.

I've seen so many relationships being broken in jail...I've seen families getting further and further away, that's how the system is...It has helped to bring us closer. I don't think it has caused any sort of cabin fever being confined with each other all the time - I think it has been great.

Having my family and my lady there - it's filled my whole empty circle I suppose. The rest is easy like the monitoring and stuff.

Children - Sixteen detainees went home to live in households with children, in most cases their own. These detainees spoke most glowingly about the opportunities the time at home had given them to renew, or begin, their relationships with their children. Some were able to take a share of the inevitable chores within family life.

My son didn't recognise me before. I wasn't very close to him. When he was growing I was in the jail. Now he sees me every day... I love my son very much.

It is better with the kids. They know me a lot better. I have had so much time. When you get out of prison your kids run away from you. They think you are strangers. With kids you need to be around all the time, but now I have been around all the time they know me.... We are getting on well.

... most of the time spending quality time with my children, just playing with them mostly. We just go outside in the backyard and play. It gives [my partner] time to go out.... now I'm starting to get more familiar with the kids they're not screaming for her all the time.... I was a stranger to one child - my youngest was terrified of me.

With the kids - I feed and change them, send them to school, bath them. I wouldn't have done that as much... [It is] giving my girlfriend a break. I have missed it, my family - they come home to a cooked tea.....

Other relatives - Five detainees went to live with other relatives. Detainees felt this worked out well in all but one case.

The relationship with the family has been stressed. They've been arguing and hassling for the month I've been here. They're tired - they wake up with the phone. Too much is expected of them. They had nothing to do with what put me inside to start with - they put too much on them.

Other living situations - Six detainees went to other living situations, including four who lived alone during at least part of the home detention period. One of these felt that home detention had hindered his ability to renew relationships with his family as he was not able to accept invitations to their home.

Other relationships - Some detainees had a constant flow of friends and family visiting because they were unable to leave the house. Others had a sense of their social life being on hold until their confinement at home was over. Others still had become alienated from friends, family and their community because of their offending and subsequent imprisonment. Their sense of isolation could not solely be attributed to being on home detention.

Relationships post home detention - Two to three months after their home detention period had finished, 19 detainees were asked about the effect of home detention on their relationships. Thirteen thought that home detention had helped their relationships with their family in some way. Five detainees thought that home detention had not changed what were already good relationships with their families, or had done no harm. One thought that home detention had had adverse effects on family relationships, because the confinement had meant he could not visit extended family. One of these detainees thought that a period each day in which the detainee could take time out would have helped family relationships more by alleviating stress caused by spending long periods confined to home.


 
4.1.2 Work

Home detention officers stated that all detainees were encouraged to find work. This was usually arranged before release with previous employers or through prison networks. A few detainees managed to find jobs after their release through extensive job searches. These detainees usually received considerable help and co-operation from the HDO who approved absences for job interviews and visits to the New Zealand Employment Service and sometimes provided transport. Home detention officers assessed proposed employment and explained the sentence to the employer, who was asked to co-operate with phone calls and visits to the workplace by home detention officers. (The impacts of home detention on the workplace are described later in this chapter).

Full time work - Nineteen of the 37 detainees had full time jobs for at least part of the home detention period. Nine had unskilled manual jobs, such as concreting, fish hand, or builders' labourer. Five worked in trades such as appliance repair, scaffolding, or painting. Two had administrative jobs, one worked in sales, one in retailing, and one was a community worker. Many of the detainees who had jobs worked long hours of overtime. A few detainees thought they would not have got a job if they had not been on home detention. One said

It has got me back into the workforce. My motivation is more. [I'm] now keener to go to work - I wasn't motivated at all before. I thought I would be on the dole for the rest of my life. (for this detainee the HDO arranged for the monitoring service to insert a `wake up' call in the mornings)

No work - Ten detainees had no work during the home detention period. One was unable to work because of a hand injury. Some had chosen not to look for work while on home detention. They felt having to explain to an employer that they had just been released from prison on special conditions would preclude any possibility of getting employment. One detainee said:

I'm not going to ring up a boss and say `this person that I have on home detention [HDO] needs a whole day [in advance] to organise a[n appointment] time for me'... I'm not going to put myself down to a prospective boss or have him look dead at me because I've been released on home detention from prison. I have enough trouble with tattoos on my hand, hiding those, without advertising the fact.

Other difficulties detainees mentioned in obtaining work were being a disqualified driver, and having a criminal conviction. The uncertainty of the release date in some cases had meant that jobs could not be held for detainees. Three detainees stated they knew of driving jobs and one knew of a bar tending job they could have obtained, but that these were declined as unsuitable by the home detention team.

Other - Three detainees had part time work, three did job skills training courses or a study course, and two were full time parents (one with a small part time job).

Work post home detention - In general there were few changes to the detainees' work status after the home detention period had finished. Two to three months after the completion of their home detention period, sixteen detainees were asked whether they had work. Eight of these detainees had been employed full time while on home detention. Four were still in the same job and four were now in different jobs. One had reverted to binge drinking after the home detention period, and been unemployed for a time, but had a full time job again by the time of the follow up interview. Of the six detainees who had been unemployed, four remained unemployed, one was employed but had had a number of jobs, and one was planning to undertake a full time job training course. One detainee remained unable to work because of sickness and one remained a full time parent (although had a small part time job). An HDO informed the researcher that one detainee (who did not take part in a follow up interview) had given up his job as soon as home detention had finished.


 
4.1.3 Income

At the time they were interviewed, 10 detainees were supported by benefits, ranging from $130 to $520 per week, depending on the family size and type of benefit. For those earning a full time income, weekly wages ranged from $430 to $960 (gross). The high level of some wages was largely explained by the long hours of overtime worked by many of the detainees. The average wage was $687 (gross). One detainee was dependent on his partner's earnings and one was supported by income from rental properties. The changes to household income will be further discussed in the section "impact of home detention on families".


 
4.1.4 The impact of the electronic monitoring on detainees

Stress - Electronic monitoring was a dominant feature in the detainees' lives, especially in their initial weeks on home detention. All of the detainees found the demands of the monitoring stressful. At times this stress was aggravated by problems with the way the equipment operated and anxiety about the consequences if they got it wrong.

In the beginning I was a bit jumpy for two weeks until I got used to it. I didn't want to do anything wrong. They were saying about me going back to jail if I didn't do it properly So far so good.

You're not allowed to go anywhere. You don't know if the phone will ring. It is pressure. If the phone doesn't ring, you think `what is wrong with the phone?'. You're worried the kids will touch the phone - it makes pressure.

I suffered a minor stroke on the first day I was home. We had an interview with Income Support and I had had a job interview... we had to be back in the house at a particular time to answer the monitor. We were running a little late and I was struggling to put the key in the door and I could hear the phone going and I didn't want to muck things up on my first day. The bottom line was I came inside and all of a sudden I couldn't co-ordinate my right arm...I couldn't form words for a while either.

Three detainees found the monitoring so difficult they considered returning to prison.

After the first few weeks I wanted to go back inside. You are being constantly rung up. You are on edge, you can't get enough sleep. The phone can ring at any time. The first couple of weeks were driving me mad, I said I'll go to jail. At least down there you can go to sleep at 9 or 10 o'clock and sleep right through to the morning.

Night calls - Almost all detainees complained about the frequency of night calls. Many of the detainees reported receiving calls at one or two hourly intervals through the night in the early weeks and most felt this level of surveillance was unnecessary. Night calls were particularly stressful for detainees working full time, and those who were concerned about the disruption to their households. Several detainees placed the monitor in their bedrooms, or slept in the living area where the telephone was. Most arranged to have other telephones in the house turned down at night. Two detainees had separate lines installed. One detainee commented:

With my job I was doing 12 hour days, some times seven days a week and I would have to get up to three calls in the night and it would take me an hour to get back [to sleep]. I'd end up with about three hours sleep and then I had to get up and go to work, and my work is really dangerous work as it is, [without] trying to do it without sleep.

To start with I got it 7, 9, 11 [p.m.] 1, 3, 5, and 7 [a.m.] the first night I was out. I think they were just letting me know I was on call whenever they want me there. It wasn't a very good introduction with both kids in bed, just getting to know them. I didn't sleep at all the first night... The kids are in and out and they're pretty restless.... it's had its moments.

Privacy - A few detainees considered the monitor an invasion of their privacy, demeaning or an embarrassment to have exposed to visitors. HDOs explained that they encourage detainees to place the monitor in their bedroom or away from an area where they might be entertaining friends and family. One detainee said

[It is] demeaning, an invasion of my privacy. They have released me from prison and I have to do silly little demeaning things like stick your finger on your nose... a couple of times I wanted to put my fist through it.

Limitations placed on daily activities - If family members were not available to answer the telephone, detainees could not mow lawns, undertake noisy activities, or stray far from the house for fear of missing a monitoring call. If a call was missed they would receive, on average, two more calls six minutes apart before the home detention unit would be notified of a possible breach. Most households arranged for the detainee to be the first to answer the phone when it rang.

Sometimes it's a real pain, when I am up and down ladders doing work around the house. Sometimes they ring twice in an hour on a Sunday. A couple of times I have rung up and left the HDO a message to stop them ringing me up, I am up the ladder painting.

I got permission from [HDO] to trim the garden outside the fence. I decided I would only do it if [my partner] was here. She leans out and says `your friend in five minutes' which is a nice way of not telling all the world.


 
4.1.5 Daily activities

How detainees filled in their day - Detainees with full time jobs on the whole had few problems filling in their free time at home, with hobbies, chores, family and friends. Those without work were more aware of the limitations they were under. Some began major projects, such as house renovations, or restoring vehicles. One detainee was using the time to prepare his properties for sale in order to pay reparation. A few detainees with medical reasons were able to spend one or two hours each day walking or running. Others did the regular chores, such as cooking, housework and lawnmowing, around the house and property, in some cases to a much greater degree than they ever had in the past. A few had a sense of aimlessness and waiting it out.

I sit here and turn my stereo on or prowl around the property with the dog.

[I have] valuable time on my hands... [I'm] getting less motivated. [I] prefer sleeping it out. It's not worth leaving the property for getting more time.

As the pilot progressed, if the detainee had complied with the conditions, the home detention team tended to approve more absences for social and recreational activities in the final stages of the home detention period. Examples were a half day picnic with the family, going out for a meal with a friend, or walking for an hour a day. The home detention team made efforts to confirm that these activities had taken place as approved.

Caring for children - Several detainees mentioned that their children were big help in filling in their day. One said:

It's really good with my little ones running around. If it wasn't for them I would be more stressed. I've enjoyed having baby with me twice a week, a big plus. It's medicine for the soul.

One detainee had the care of her three pre-schoolers while on home detention. Although two children attended child care, she found she was particularly restricted in pursuing normal activities with the children, such as visiting the park. She felt the children themselves suffered from being housebound.

Activities needed - Most detainees were dismayed at the amount of restriction upon them particularly during the first part of the home detention period. Some had been under the impression they would have more freedom and most thought there should be more flexibility in the programme. Activities they would like approved absences for included going to the beach, fishing, surfing, shopping, going to a movie and taking part in activities with their children. Many of the detainees referred to a need for exercise, in the form of running, walking, or going to a gym. They had commonly begun exercise regimes or had taken up sports using the facilities in the prisons and were frustrated by the restrictions on these activities on home detention. Although several detainees sought approval to undertake team sports such as rugby league, no approvals were granted because of the difficulties of verifying detainees attendance at these venues. Two detainees who had approval to attend gyms in the early stages of the pilot had breached their conditions, so this option became no longer available to them.

Some detainees mentioned the process of gaining approvals for every absence was so onerous that, although they could have sought approvals, they delayed some projects until the home detention period was over. Examples were searching for a job, flat hunting, attending medical appointments and, in one case, progressing proceedings to gain access to a child.


 
4.1.6 Formal programmes

In the Auckland prisons, home detention officers at the initial assessment interview identify the needs of potential detainees for programmes. In prisons in other regions, other Community Corrections or prisons staff make recommendations for programmes for potential detainees.

Motivation to attend programmes was high because the appointments made a break from containment at home. Eleven detainees stated they were involved in training or counseling courses, although some of these were only one or two hours per week. Four detainees attended psychological counseling, five attended drug and alcohol counseling or support groups, one attended a business skills course, and three were doing courses of study by correspondence, including accountancy, computer servicing, desk top publishing, psychology and business management. Other programmes attended included a women's support group and youth group, and anger management.

Ten detainees had no work and either no programme, or a programme that occupied only one or two hours per week for part of the period. Eight detainees mentioned that programmes which formed part of the conditions of release had not been arranged by the time of the interview. The attendance of one detainee at Alcoholic Anonymous meetings was not approved until the later stages of the home detention period because of the difficulty of verifying his attendance, although this detainee had been offered and refused more structured programmes.

Information from the Home Detention Unit records suggests that some of the barriers to taking up programmes and courses include costs, lack of transport, a miss-match in timing, refusals to attend on the part of detainees, and a lack of suitable programmes. A further problem was that programmes could be funded by Community Corrections only on the recommendation of the District Prisons Board. Programmes developed subsequent to release had to be funded by the detainee.


 
4.1.7 How home detention compared with prison

Thirty three detainees gave their views on how home detention compared with prison. Twenty six detainees thought that being home was better in almost every way. The advantages of home detention were: having contact with family or friends; better food; having sexual relationships; the opportunity to earn money; better hygiene; the knowledge that their family was under less stress; more privacy; more control over their everyday lives; better access to a phone; freedom from the `contamination' of prison life. Detainees said

[Home detention] is heaps better. You're mixing with a different type of person. I'm amazed the justice system hasn't twigged to that earlier. If you want to turn people like myself into criminals, throw us into prison.

[Home detention] gives me back quite a lot of the life that was taken from me.

[It is] much easier being home, definitely. You've got more freedom. You do all your thinking for yourself and the people that's in the house - it's just been excellent.

Seven detainees thought that they personally would have been better off remaining in prison for the time they had spent on home detention, although three of these detainees thought being home on home detention was better for their families. They thought the advantages of prison were: there was more contact with people; there were more options such as educational classes, for filling in the time; opportunities to play sport and have exercise; there were no night calls disrupting sleep; there was less stress. Two of these detainees said

In prison you would go to the gym, walk in the yard... do all sorts, go to education, go to art class, go and play squash, go and play touch rugby on the back field; go and play crash.... Jail is nothing; it's a bit of time -

If I'd been through this before, I wouldn't have accepted it. I'd have stayed where I was... in jail. I enjoyed it; it was less stressful in there.


 
4.1.8 The overall effect of home detention on detainees

Families were asked what in their view was the overall effect of home detention on the detainees.

Families had observed the following positive effects. Some of the following behavioural changes were also attributed to the stay in prison. The detainee:

  • was quieter and more reflective
  • had time to adjust to a more normal way of living
  • was more punctual, reliable and responsible
  • wanted relationships to be worked out
  • learnt he could not do what he liked. He had to be home at a certain hour to be with his family
  • was happier and more positive
  • was healthier
  • appreciated home more
  • contributed more around the home
  • was kept away from bad influences

He has mellowed. He is better than he was when he got out.... he even looks better. He's felt secure..

[HD] keeps him away from the riff raff inside [prison] plus not being able to go anywhere for three months gives him a chance to lose contact with all the hoods and that on the outside.

He's done a lot more things around the house - housework, vacuuming, hanging out washing. Staying home has made him realise how much has to be done. It's nice to come home to.

Only a few families spoke of negative effects. Some detainees did not cope with the confinement and surveillance and became stressed and irritable. One sponsor thought that in the early days of her son's home detention he would have been better off in prison. Two women observed that their partners were depressed by coming home to face the realities of the effects of their offending. One felt that the limitations of home detention had hindered her partner's reintegration.

It has stopped him getting on with his life in a way. When I would go and visit him he would say how he was going to get a job and that when he got out. Now he's out and on home detention he wants to get a job, but this thing about having to tell employers that he is on home detention is putting him off. That's made him a bit grumpy, especially in the mornings. (This detainee, with a lot of encouragement from the HDO secured a full time job before the home detention period had finished, but has since been charged with new offences).

He's coping real well with it. It's only on the odd days he loses it. We just leave him alone, let him go about his business and work it off. We can tell he's shitty, he snaps. We just let him go for it and don't bother him until he's ready to come in.

He's had to face reality. He was locked away from it down there [in prison] and could only guess what the rest of us were doing here. He only found out what I told him. He was very protected. [Since coming home] he has had to face what he has done to us.

Follow up interviews with twelve families two to three months after the home detention period had finished indicated that in general the positive effects were still evident. At least three women felt that home detention had motivated their partner to find and retain a job when they might not otherwise have done so. Two women observed that their family member had adjusted to release from prison more easily than on previous occasions.


 
4.2 The impacts on the families

Thirty one sponsors were asked about the impact of home detention on them and other members of the family or household.

Unless otherwise stated, the information is taken from the first interviews with the families, which were carried out between the sixth and twelfth week the home detention period. Families gave the richest information about the impact of the programme on them during these interviews. Their comments relate to their experiences up to and including the time when the interview took place. It is possible that their views may have changed by the time they completed the home detention period. Nevertheless the fifteen families who gave follow up interviews tended to endorse their earlier comments.

For seven of the families the benefits and burdens of home detention were approximately equal. One of these sponsors said:

Having him here is a hundred times better than releasing him and have him go live somewhere else, because we probably would have disowned him if we hadn't of had this close contact which has been forced on us, and so yes we have come to know each other much better.... [It has] been strained at times.


 
4.2.1 Benefits

Seventeen sponsors felt overall that having the detainee home had been beneficial for the family. All of those who had children found that the bonding between the detainee and their children had been strengthened by the extra time the detainee was spending at home. Children seemed more secure, after the long period of separation from their parent and were reassured by their continuing presence at home. Moreover, these detainees had usually helped with child care, sometimes providing the first relief for their partner for many months and freeing their partner to do other things, such as part time work. Some partners spoke of stronger relationships between themselves and the detainee and the relief at the end of a long period of separation. For families who had not lived with the detainee for some years, the opportunity to return home on home detention had brought them closer together.

With home detention I am so happy because we can stay together. I can talk to him any time if we have problems.

[For the] children, it was the best gift they have ever had. They have changed in confidence and personality... [they are] settled and happy - they're really over the moon.

For us it's been good because [detainee] has been quite helpful. He mows the lawns and does a lot of things around the house. He keeps his room nice. He's always doing something to improve things out the back.

Home detention is not a problem. It's actually a breeze as far as I'm concerned compared with the last two years.

There are no more long trips [to visit at the prison]. The worst part was coming home feeling tired. [Home detention] is a hundred per cent different - it saves money; it's not so draining and stressful and he can help with the kids.


 
4.2.2 Burdens

In general, families had found that the process of arrest, conviction and imprisonment of their family member had caused the greatest stress and upheaval for the family. In most cases separation from their family member had been difficult and in some cases the aftermath of the offending had left families isolated from their communities and at least parts of their extended families. For them, the burdens of home detention were minor by comparison.

For most of the families, although overall the impact had been positive, home detention carried some burdens. Many burdens were related to the impact of the electronic monitoring, which will be discussed later in this section.

Some families had to readjust to a family member who may not have lived with them for a number of years. Several sponsors found they spent more time around the home, as they felt in some way responsible for the detainee. A few had withdrawn from their community and felt a sense of embarrassment at having a family member on home detention. A few family members found they had to run a lot of errands for the detainee who could not get out to make purchases for themselves. Some sponsors spoke of having a big increase in the number of visitors, and a subsequent need to feed them and provide hospitality.

Lots of people come round. It's like grand central station. I cook lots of dinners - we had 14 here last weekend.

You get someone younger coming in and with all good intentions they take over... Everything is done but instead of enjoying it, all of a sudden the upheaval... Normally we would just have a nice quiet existence.

Seven families had found the overall experience of home detention had been detrimental to them or their families. Three families had suffered from abusive behaviour from the detainee when under stress from the monitoring, although no families spoke of physical abuse. Another sponsor felt she had had no help in coping with home detention. Another felt her home had become a prison, to the point that she no longer wished to live there. Another found home detention had brought stresses to the relationship, and two found they were burdened by ongoing anxiety during the home detention period.

Quite frankly we probably drove him nuts too because we were stressed out with the whole thing and we felt that we had to keep an eye on him as well. We weren't told to. We just felt we had to see that he did all the right things.

If he had a job it would be much easier on him and me. In the day I sit in the garage with him... I spend more time at home than normal. When he's here by himself I feel sorry for him. When I go out I've got him on my mind. I think I'm not a supportive mother - think I might come home one day and I think he might not be here..... I wouldn't like to go through it again - I would rather my children do their time.

Things were going badly. [The detainee] was throwing rages... I decided to carry on. It was a bit of a day by day thing. [It was] an ordeal - I cried every single day for about half an hour... You don't get any relief from them. You take any frustration or disturbance that's there.... My nerves were just strained to breaking point over and over again. The worst thing was the noise.... He particularly in the first weeks bellowed at the top of his voice whenever he abused me which was every day.

Follow up interviews with 12 families two to three months after the home detention period finished indicated there were few long lasting negative impacts of home detention. One family had moved house, partly because of home detention. Of the three detainees whose behaviour families had found intolerable, two had moved out and one did not agree to a follow up interview. Most families spoke of a sense of relief and of having put that period behind them.


 
4.2.3 Impacts of the electronic monitoring on families

Nearly all families had found the monitoring regime stressful. They most frequently referred to the disruption caused by the night calls. Although some family members managed to sleep through night calls, in other cases they would wake young children, elderly or ill members of the family. Families also had to cope with tiredness and irritability of detainees after losing sleep. Many families also spoke of general anxiety that they did nothing to cause their family member to be reported for a breach.

One day a job interview took two hours. He had three hours to get over there and back and he got tied up in the traffic. Wanganui had rung.... It was so frustrating because I knew the computer was going to ring in five minutes and when he comes home the police car's going to be here to take him way. I left messages for [HDO] on [HDO's] pager and... mobile. I couldn't tell the computer, `look, he's coming, he's just about here'.

If the phone rings after midnight we think it's something to do with the family - someone has died or something. I think the worst.

All families with children had to be particularly vigilant that the children did not play with the phone or use it too long.

The first couple of weeks settling in was the hardest. [We] had to tell the kids not to touch the phone when it rang just in case it was the corrective thingy.... - [it's] a bit of a panic when the phone goes.

Family members were restricted in their phone use, but generally adapted to this. A number of households had Telecom's call waiting installed so incoming calls could be answered while the telephone was in use.

Five sponsors felt that the monitoring had very little impact on their family life.

It becomes a minor part of your life. I don't really think about it at all When I get home I might say `how many times has the phone gone today?'. It's just like another thing in your house like a radio or something except it goes off at weird hours.


 
4.2.4 Changes to household income

Twenty nine sponsors gave information on the effect of having a family member on home detention on their household income. Twenty two sponsors stated the household income had risen, the majority (17) because the detainee was paying board from their benefit or wages. Board payments ranged from $50 to $100 a week.

Five households received no extra income. The reasons were that the female partner was in paid employment, which meant that the detainee was not eligible to receive a benefit, or there was another source of income, or the benefit had stayed at the same level. These sponsors observed that because of the extra expenses of another member of the household, they were worse off financially. In all, seven sponsors stated they were worse off since the detainee returned home10.

Five households had remained on benefits, although these were changed and adjusted to account for the extra member of the household. The maximum amount of extra benefit income that households received was $50. One sponsor moving from Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) to Unemployment Benefit stated that this had meant a reduction of $70 in their weekly income. This was probably because on the DPB she was receiving additional allowances to cover the costs of prison visiting and moving house.

Only three households moved from benefits to wages as a source of income. Their income had increased by up to $300 a week and all three were feeling the benefits of this.

A number of sponsors stated however, that their outgoings had reduced because of the high costs of phone calls and visits to their family member in prisons in the central North Island. Some families were saving $200 to $300 a week in expenses associated with imprisonment. A number had been in debt because of this.


 
4.3 The impacts on the workplace

Half of the detainees had full time work for at least part of the home detention period. A home detention officer would visit an employer or contact them by phone to confirm the availability of a job and assess its suitability at the time an assessment was being prepared for the District Prisons or Parole Board. Once the detainee had started work, HDOs would monitor the detainee by phone or workplace visits, and approve in advance any changes to hours or work sites, which had to be confirmed by the employer.

Four employers were interviewed by phone about the impacts of home detention on their workplaces. The number interviewed was small because it was only decided at the mid point of the evaluation period to include employers, and only employers of detainees who agreed they could be contacted were interviewed. The comments which follow cannot be regarded as representative of the employers' views, but point to some issues which arise when home detention is combined with the workplace.

Two employers stated that they had initially not fully understood the conditions under which the detainee would be monitored and this led to problems in the relationship with the home detention officer. They felt that the conditions of home detention were not always compatible with the demands of running a business. Problems most commonly arose when workplace sites changed or overtime was worked at short notice. This was eventually resolved for one worker in the construction industry who notified the HDO by phone each day of the address of the work site. Because construction sites were not open to visitors, the worker and employer accommodated visits from the HDO by arranging meetings at the gate. Another detainee was employed as a sales manager, but was not permitted to leave the workshop in the early weeks of home detention, limiting the effectiveness of his work. This requirement was eventually relaxed after the employer arranged a cell phone for the detainee. One employer was unsure how much supervision they should be giving and whether the detainee should be left to work alone.

Despite the difficulties outlined, all the employers interviewed felt that home detention had encouraged positive work habits in the detainees, which had in turn benefited the workplace. Detainees had been settled and reliable and all had proved to be good workers. One employer stated he would have been hesitant to employ someone straight out of prison without the added safeguard of the supervision the detainee was receiving. Another employer said:

He hasn't missed a day or even been late. He's worked hard, is not drinking or taking drugs...

When asked about improvements that could be made to the home detention programme, three employers all felt that there could be more flexibility to allow for the demands of the workplace. An example was having processes which allowed giving short notice for overtime. One employer suggested written guidelines about the programme and the role of the employer would have been helpful. Another expressed regret that the detainee had not been permitted to join in social activities, such as a weekend trip away which had been organised by the employer.

In most cases, detainees stated that the monitoring of the detainee at the workplace proceeded smoothly. For some, combining a job with the requirements of home detention led to difficulties.

..After three weeks we started getting work everywhere - and my HDO went right off and started making things difficult, hassling me to bits because I was shifting round jobs and I wasn't supposed to be...[HDO] gave me a letter saying I have to phone [HDO's] pager every morning and tell [HDO] where I am working.... but [HDO] said in future no one will be able to get a job like that... [My employer] has got a job to do. He's not going to keep me somewhere for half a day just because [HDO] wants me to be there when I have a job to do somewhere else.


 
4.4 Impacts on the home detention officers

Implementation issues - The team had faced many initial difficulties associated with setting up a small scale new programme. Support and administrative systems had to be developed and the budget provided was insufficient to accommodate the extra costs of the scheme, particularly the electronic equipment. The process of establishing the conditions of work was protracted and deflected much time from management of the pilot. Most of these difficulties had been resolved by the conclusion of the pilot period. The main problems outstanding were the impacts of the on-call work and safety issues.

Standby - The frequency of the 24 hour on-call roster had a major impact on the personal lives of the home detention officers and their families. Because they were such a small team, each home detention officer was officially on call one week in three. In practice, because of staff absences on leave, officers were on call two weekly and in addition filled in for odd days. The on-call days were disruptive of their personal lives. While occasions when they needed to physically attend a call-out were rare, the need to be available and time spent on the telephone restricted non-work activities, such as sport, socialising, sleep, or travel away from Auckland. Families were also affected by these restrictions. If officers were out with their families and called out, their families had first to drive them home to pick up the official car. Home detention officers are paid a combination of standby allowances and overtime for their on-call work.

Safety - Throughout the pilot HDOs raised concerns about their personal 13 The views of two detainees are unknown safety, particularly when working at night. They were required to verify in person unapproved absences detected by the electronic system. When on call and covering for each others' clients they could be working alone late at night with people they did not know, and finding their way around neighbourhoods they were not familiar with. Besides risking the safety of the HDOs, these situations would cause the families of the HDOs stress and fear for their family member. Moreover, one home detention officer had been bitten by a dog during a night visit. Although a number of options had been suggested, the issue of safety had not been resolved by the conclusion of the evaluation period. All of the options carried some disadvantages. The options and accompanying disadvantages included:

  • keeping Wanganui Security Services informed of their whereabouts - would not enhance safety
  • seeking back up from the police - unlikely to be made available
  • ensuring two home detention officers attended each call-out after dark - not practical with a small team
  • contracting the after hours monitoring to a private firm - specific skills and experience are needed for this type of work.

Further urgent investigation is needed which will seek solutions from the experience of other occupational groups who run a 24 hour on-call service under similar conditions. For example, it is understood that the Police would not operate a 24 hour on-call service with fewer than five personnel available11.

Integration with Community Corrections - The team also initially felt a sense of isolation from others in Community Corrections. The coercive aspects of the programme were not seen as fitting the probation philosophy. Moreover, because the team worked under different conditions to other probation officers, with, for example, different rates of pay, cars and cell phones, they tended to be regarded as different and apart by other Community Corrections staff. The team had initially visited other Community Corrections offices and had encountered considerable opposition to the programme. This opposition reduced as time went on. At the conclusion of the evaluation period, the Community Corrections Service was being restructured to become generic service in which probation officers would work a 40 hour week in a six day period with working hours extended between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.12. Although this would not address the issues relating to on-call work, one outcome of the restructuring would be better integration of the home detention programme into the work of Community Corrections.

HDO role - Combining the roles of support and surveillance had been stressful for one Home Detention Officer. The surveillance role is a departure from the traditional work of a probation officer. HDOs faced resentment and negativity from the some of the detainees, particularly at the four to six week stage of the home detention period.

Location - The location of the home detention team was a factor which impacted on the efficiency of the work. Home detention officers stated they were based too far away from the residences of the bulk of their detainees, resulting in long traveling distances. A workload of 10 detainees per home detention officer was thought to be the maximum sustainable from a central office, although that number had not yet been reached. However, if home detention officers were working from more localised areas, the maximum possible workload could be increased.

The aspects of their work on home detention which the HDOs valued were establishing positive relationships with the detainees and their families, achieving compliance, assisting detainees to successfully complete the home detention period, and above all, successfully putting the pilot into operation.

11 Personal communication to the author.
12 Existing staff could retain the previous standard working hours.

 
4.5 The impacts of home detention: Key Points

  • Most detainees felt they developed positive relationships with their families.
  • Most families had found that having the detainee home was beneficial, especially those with children. For a small group the experience of home detention was detrimental.
  • Families noted positive behavioural changes in some detainees. A few families felt home detention had a detrimental effect on the detainee.
  • All of the detainees found the demands of the electronic monitoring stressful, especially the night calls.
  • Nearly all of the families found it difficult to adjust to the electronic monitoring and most made adaptations to their routines.
  • Detainees would have liked more flexibility within the programme to take part in social and sporting activities.
  • The income to most households had increased on having the detainee home.
  • Half of the 37 detainees had full time work and less than a third were on training or counseling programmes. More than a quarter of the detainees had no work and no programmes to attend.
  • While the monitoring had some impacts on the workplace, overall the small number of employers interviewed were positive about the effects of the programme.
  • Serious and urgent problems for home detention officers were the frequency and impact of the on-call work and anxiety about their personal safety on the job, particularly when working at night.