EDWARDS - Jai Tamaroa - 28/08/2015
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Jai Tamaroa EDWARDS
Hearing: 28 August 2015
Members of the Board:
Hon M A Frater – Panel Convenor
Judge P Gittos
Dr J Skipworth
Mr L Comer
In attendance: (withheld)
Support People: (withheld)
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Jai Tamaroa Edwards is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for murder. He was also sentenced to concurrent lesser terms for other violent offending. These crimes were committed in 2003 when he was 19 years old. He is now 31.
2. Mr Edwards became eligible to be released on parole on 12 October 2013. This is his third appearance before the Board.
3. He sought parole today. That is opposed by his victims, some of whom we met yesterday.
4. We talked to Mr Edwards about their concerns. They do not believe he is ready for release. They do not believe that he has properly addressed his offending.
5. They spoke of the events surrounding the index offending. Based on his earlier violent propensity, they thought that there could have been more victims. They do not think he has properly acknowledged what he has done or that he has expressed genuine remorse for his offending and the consequences of it. They are sceptical of his alleged change in attitude and behaviour. They think he has simply been ticking the boxes in order to present a good case for release; they do not think he is genuine.
6. However, in the event that the Board was minded to grant release, they asked that Mr Edwards be precluded from going to Tauranga or Southland. They also asked for GPS monitoring.
7. One of the victims also asked for the opportunity of meeting Mr Edwards in a restorative justice conference.
8. Mr Edwards gave considered and careful responses to each of these concerns.
9. He denied the specific allegations about his behaviour at and around the time of the offending. He said these matters were brought up either at depositions or at sentencing. He said that they were not established.
10. He did, however, accept that at that time his life was out of control. He could not deal with his emotions and used cannabis and alcohol as a coping strategy, and aggression and violence to give him a sense of control. He acknowledged that his offending was motivated by a need for vengeance.
11. However, he denied ever saying that he did what he did to be a man and to be somebody. He said that his value system is completely different today. He has changed. He abhors conflict and acts to defuse violence. He is ashamed and sincerely remorseful for what he did and the consequences of it for all affected. He said he tried to convey that in the letter he wrote to the victims. He would welcome meeting with some or all of them in a properly managed restorative justice meeting, and has been willing to do so for some time.
12. Mr Edwards has a strong and diverse support network, which was well represented at the hearing.
13. He has taken every available opportunity in custody to develop his skills and knowledge. He is proud of his educational achievements and of his new knowledge of his M‚ori identity. With the assistance and guidance of the late (withheld), he has learnt his whakapapa, speaks te reo and has generally adopted the concepts of te au M‚ori to the point where he is now able to assist in teaching and supporting other offenders. He studied M‚ori and philosophy (withheld) through (withheld) University and expects to graduate with a BA degree in February. He has done this while undertaking the MTP and Drug Treatment Unit rehabilitative programmes and undertaking ongoing employment in custody.
14. The last Board encouraged Mr Edwards to prove, by participation in Release to Work and other reintegrative activities such as home leaves, that he is no longer an undue risk to the safety of the community. Through no fault of his own, but rather as the result of the application of a new departmental policy to all life sentenced prisoners, Mr Edwards has been unable to progress beyond work in the (withheld) Prison construction yard.
15. He has not caused any problems in custody. He has maintained a minimum security classification since February 2011, has not been mentioned in any incident or misconduct reports or been involved in any substance abuse. He is highly regarded by the prison staff, by his kaiako and kaum‚tua, and by (withheld) and the other staff from the (withheld) Charitable group he has been working with for some years now. This is reflected in (withheld)’s statement that, of all the men he has met in the 12 years he has been working with offenders through (withheld) Reintegration, Mr Edwards is the offender who he would most support. Similarly, (withheld), who has worked with Maori offenders in prison for 20 or more years now, has offered to sponsor Mr Edwards on release. He said that he can live with him for as long as he needs. Mr Edwards has an offer of permanent employment from (withheld) of (withheld). (withheld) advises that he considers Mr Edwards (withheld) and not just an(withheld), and is keen to assist him in any way he can. He also has an offer of evening employment tutoring te reo. And finally, but not least, Mr Edwards has the ongoing support of (withheld), who have visited him regularly over the years, and attest to the palpable change they have seen in him, and they have also undergone.
16. Mr Edwards has an impressive release proposal.
17. On 17 July last, Mr Edwards and nine supporters met together to formulate a plan to put before the Board. Those present included Mr Edwards’ case manager, a practice leader from (withheld), members of his family, two representatives from (withheld) (withheld) and (withheld).
18. We are satisfied that the plan is both comprehensive and realistic, and that it is well understood by Mr Edwards.
19. He is quite clear that he wants to take things slowly and carefully following release. Although he has plans for further academic study, he will put them on hold for a year or so. Nor will he hurry into employment. His immediate focus, post release, will be on engaging with his Probation Officer and completing any programmes he is directed to attend.
20. He is committed to remaining alcohol, drug, smoke and violence free, and that will certainly be enforced so long as he is living with (withheld).
21. Given the steps which he has taken to address the causes of his offending and the strength of his release plan, we are satisfied that Mr Edwards’ moderate/low risk of violent reoffending can be managed in the community if he is released now, subject to appropriate conditions.
22. These will include, as well as the conditions suggested by Community Corrections, conditions prohibiting him from entering Invercargill where the offending took place, and Tauranga where the principal victim is buried, and enforcing that by GPS monitoring, provided that is viable from (withheld) home. How long that needs to continue should be reviewed at a monitoring hearing in March 2016.
23. We do not think it necessary for Mr Edwards to attend that hearing in person. Unless the next Board directs otherwise, a report from his Probation Officer pursuant to section 29B(2)(a) is sufficient.
24. Mr Edwards will be released on parole on 30 September 2015. He will of course be subject to the standard release conditions set out in section 14 of the Parole Act 2002 for life. Unless otherwise specified, the following special conditions will continue for five years post release.
25. The special conditions are:
(1) To attend, and participate in, an alcohol and other drug assessment, then undertake and complete any recommended appropriate alcohol or drug treatment/counselling to the satisfaction of the Probation Officer and treatment provider. The details of the counselling or treatment to be determined by your Probation Officer.
(2) To attend, and participate in, a psychological assessment and then attend and complete any treatment/counselling as recommended by the psychological assessment to the satisfaction of your Probation Officer and treatment provider.
(3) To reside at (withheld) and not to move from that or any other approved address without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(4) Until 29 November 2015, not to stay away overnight from your residence without prior written approval of a Probation Officer. This means you are to be at your approved address seven nights a week, from 10:00pm to 06:00am.
(5) To gain the approval of your Probation Officer prior to starting, terminating or changing your position or place of employment, including voluntary and unpaid work.
(6) To undertake and abide by the rules of the (withheld) Group Reintegration Plan to the satisfaction of the Probation Officer.
(7) Not to have contact or otherwise associate with the victim(s) of your offending, directly or indirectly, unless you have the prior written consent of your Probation Officer.
(8) Not to possess or consume alcohol or illicit drugs.
(9) Not to enter Tauranga or Invercargill cities without the prior written consent of your Probation Officer.
(10) To comply with the requirements of electronic monitoring, as directed by a Probation Officer.
(11) The Department of Corrections to provide a progress report in the month of March 2016 on Mr Edward’s compliance with these conditions.
Hon M A Frater