NZPARS works to reduce offending by providing support and reintegration services to offenders and their family/whanau.
NZPARS – History
By 1871 there were 27 prisons in New Zealand and following British precedent prison visiting by lay persons was in evidence by at least the 1860’s. In 1877 the Patients’ and Prisoners’ Aid Society was established in Dunedin and a cluster of new organisations dedicated to the support of prisoners, both before and after release, emerged during the period 1880-1910. PARS is one of the oldest social service organisations in New Zealand.
Many of the early PARS organisations working with prisoners had strong links to the churches. In Wellington a Visiting Justice, Edwin Arnold, had been active in helping offenders since the 1890’s and the Wellington Prisoners Aid Society, established in 1907, was a purely secular organisation to complement the work of the Salvation Army.
It was the Wellington Society that led the way towards a national federation, and this was supported by the Secretary for Justice, Sam Barnett, who wanted a strong community link to reinforce reforms within the prison system. NZPARS was incorporated in 1959 and the South Island Association joined in 1961. The name remained the same until it was changed at the 2004 AGM.
With increased government support there followed a time of growth, including the provision of post-release hostels in the major centres and accommodation for families visiting prisons in the isolated central north island region.
By the early 1990’s there were 23 PARS societies but this has reduced to 20 with the winding up of Ohura/Taumarunui, Kaitaia and Northland.