FROM carpentry instructor to probation officer turned service manager, Brian McKenzie’s “investment in the city” kept him in a 40-year career with Invercargill Community Corrections, he says.
Born and raised in Southland, he had just over a week left in his workplace. “I want this to be a good community. I’m one small cog in a big wheel but we all work together… I really believe Corrections are heading down the right track.”
Mr McKenzie started out in the joinery shop at Invercargill Prison where he taught carpentry skills to inmates.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it because I was working with the inmates doing something constructive.”
From making and fixing furniture and homes to milking cows, the work gave inmates a chance to be employed after their sentence, he said.
About 10 years later, he made the transition to the probation-side of corrections as a warden of periodic detention, where probationers reported to him once a week for community service. “That was their reparation, giving back to the community.”
After a Corrections restructure, he became a service manager where he led a team of probation officers working across Southland.
As part of the team which trained Corrections staff across New Zealand when GPS tracking was introduced, his focus was on facilitating prisoners’ rehabilitation. “Home detention isn’t a barrier to being employed, it’s also important to keep their family unit together to prevent re-offending. We’re not here to punish, we’re here to administrate.”
He said having a team of probation officers who acted as role models who prisoners could identify with was also “crucial”.
“Most of these offenders are average Joes who have a few issues they need some guidance on – we need to learn to listen not just with our ears, but with our hearts.”
At the end of his career in Corrections, he would like to think people remembered him as “firm, fair, and consistent”.