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How Should We Reintegrate Prisoners?

Kim Workman
Executive Director
Rethinking Crime and Punishment
A society can control effectively only those who perceive themselves to be
members of it (as quoted in Young, 1971, p. 52)


The governments recently announced Reducing Crime and Reoffending Action Plan,
commits to partnering with community agencies in the provision of prisoner reintegration
Using results-driven contracts, we will purchase a wider range of services that
support prisoners and offenders to live offence free lives. Organisations like PARS,
Prison Fellowship, Salvation Army and Choices Hawkes Bay provide a range of
reintegration services. They will be supported to go much further in working with
offenders in the community to reduce re-offending. (Department of

This policy represents a major shift away from a Corrections centred reintegration policy, to
one which puts primary responsibility on community and iwi groups. In the last three to
four decades, as justice agencies and systems have expanded, they have taken on increasing
responsibility for addressing problems once dealt with by families, neighbours, teachers,
clergy and others at the neighborhood level by these less formal means. Efforts to
centralize, professionalize and expand generally the reach of criminal justice and social
services seem, over time, to have sent destructive messages to community groups and
neighborhoods. While widening the system net, social service and juvenile justice agencies
have often weakened historically stronger community nets and inadvertently undercut the
role and responsibility of citizens, neighborhood institutions and community groups in

socialization and informal sanctioning (Braithwaite, 1994; McKnight, 1995) As Clear and
Karp (1999) observe:
When agents of the state become the key problem solvers, they might be filling a void in
community; but just as in interpersonal relationships, so in community functioning, once
a function is being performed by one party it becomes unnecessary for another to take it
on ... parents expect police or schools to control their children; neighbors expect police
to prevent late night noise from people on their street; and citizens expect the courts to
resolve disputes ... informal control systems may atrophy like dormant muscles, and
citizens may come to see the formal system as existing to mediate all conflicts.
In this context, a revitalization of viable neighbourhood responses to crime will not be
easy, as communities today may be resistant to taking on increased responsibility after
being told for years to leave it to the experts'. Indeed, citizens and community groups
who do not learn and regularly practice the art and techniques of norm affirmation,
apology, forgiveness and mutual aid may become so deskilled that they are incapable of
doing so.
The success of community prisoner reintegration therefore, will depend on the extent to
which the community is empowered to exercise this new role. McNeill (2006) puts it this

The State cannot be said to be in the business of re-integrating individuals.

Professionals cannot reintegrate anyone no matter how much training they have. Exoffenders can reintegrate themselves and communities can reintegrate ex-offenders.
But the most that the State can do is help or hinder this process. Re-integration
happens out there, when the professionals go home. (McNeill, 2006)
Of equal importance is the development of a reintegration policy which integrates
community values and aspirations. Over the last decade Corrections in New Zealand and
other jurisdictions have tended toward the development of a Corrections-centred prisoner
reintegration framework which focuses on the principles of risk, needs and responsivity. At
the same time, those engaged with community-centred prisoner reintegration, have
favoured prisoner reintegration approaches which are more inclusive, and engage the exprisoner in identifying and building on their strengths.

While there are distinct differences between the two, they are not mutually exclusive. This
paper discusses the recent history of prisoner reintegration policy in New Zealand, and
considers what the essential ingredients of an effective community based prisoner
reintegration model might look like.
Reintegrative Policy in New Zealand 2000 20101

Initial Corrections policy about the reintegration of prisoners was originally informed by
the work done by de Joux (1999), commissioned by the Integrated Offender Management
(IOM) Project Team of the Department of Corrections, which aimed to

(a) Develop of a comprehensive list of integrative needs of offenders who have

completed either a sentence of imprisonment or a community based sentence or
(b) Identify, based on the above, current practice in the delivery of post-order
support across international jurisdictions

The Department of Corrections in designing the IOM Reintegrative Services Framework

makes a distinction between rehabilitation and reintegration.

Rehabilitation relates to activities directed towards offenders themselves, activities

which seek to train, educate, influence and/or transform offenders in order that they
become generally better equipped to manage their lives positively. The goal of these
activities is to reduce the risk of reoffending by directly targeting the offenders
motivation, attitudes, awareness and general personal, social and occupational

For a full description of this period, read Workman, Kim, Prisoner Reintegration in New Zealand The Past
and a Possible Future A paper presented to the 5 Restorative Justice Aotearoa Conference, and the 3
Restorative Practices International Annual Conference, 23-27 November 2011, Amora Hotel, Wellington, New

Reintegration on the other hand relates to activities whose emphasis is directly

upon identified social or environmental problems facing that offender on release.
These are problems that are likely to constitute obstacles to a non-offending lifestyle
following release. Whereas the goal is similarly that of reducing reoffending, the
focus of reintegration in this context is towards the specific problem (rather than the
general skills of the offender), and the goal of reintegrative activities is the resolution
or management of the identified issue.

The approved reintegrative objectives were:

1. Acquire suitable accommodation
2. Obtain employment
3. Manage finance
4. Manage relationship issues
5. Develop positive community support;
6. Prevent victim-related problems;
7. Achieve post-release health care continuity.

In May 2004, the Minister of Corrections, the Hon Paul Swain, held a Ministerial Forum on
Offender Reintegration, issuing a challenge for New Zealand to be a world leader in
reintegration. (Department of Corrections: 2004) The framework it presented at that
forum, was based on the following key ideas:
a) Reintegration is the cornerstone of the Departments approach to integrated
offender management;
b) The principles of Risk, Need and Responsivity will tell the Department how to work
with offenders, based on their risk of re-offending, their level of need, and
Responsivity factors.

Risk by being able to identify those who are most at risk of further
offending, and provide services to mitigate against that risk, the Department
can have a significant impact


Need Services should be targeted at specific needs and in dealing with

reintegrative needs it may have to target a multiple range of needs and how
those needs relate to each other


Responsivity there is no point in attempting to either deliver a service to

someone who doesnt want it or delivering it inappropriately without taking
into account their response

The Departments focus relied on earlier Canadian research which supported the gradual
and structured released of offenders as the safest strategy for the protection of society
against new offences by released offenders. (see Waller, 1974; Harman & Hann, 1986;
Gendreau, Little & Goggin, 1996)

Regional Reintegration Coordination

By the end of 2004, a range of new initiatives were proposed including supported
accommodation, and additional funding for important community providers. The main
thrust however, was toward the extension of reintegration services, through the
establishment of prison-based Regional Reintegration Coordinators. Their role was to
coordinate and promote reintegrative services that assist ex-prisoners to re-enter their
communities and the labour market. A cooperative venture between the Department of
Corrections and Work and Income was expanded in August 2005, so that by the end of
2005, Work and Income Case Managers and Work Brokers were based in prisons to help
prisoners find work in time for their release.

By May 2008, the Department of Corrections had formed a new Rehabilitation Group under a
General Manager. It held a consultation workshop with key government and community
stakeholders, to discuss the formation of new approaches to prison reintegration (Department
of Corrections: 2008). Despite significant input from community organisations about other
approaches, the department persisted with the risk, needs responsivity framework, and a needs
based approach. (de Joux, 1999, McCarthy, 2006)

A departmental review undertaken in 2009 showed that the difficulties experienced with
the IOMS (Integrated Offender Management System) model, and the failure of individual

case management led to a lack of coordination throughout the prisoners sentence, and
poor reintegration planning.(Department of Corrections, 2009:18) The central coordination
of offenders through their custodial sentence plan failed.
The report recommended that the Department establishes Specialist Case Managers within
prisons moving the central coordination role from Corrections Officers to specialist
custodial-based staff. In order to support this, the Sentence Planning and Reintegration
Teams would be amalgamated, creating Through Care Teams within the Prison Service.
These new teams would be responsible for both planning and case management (e.g.,
authoring sentence plans, managing offenders to their sentence plans whilst in custody and
contributing to the Parole Assessment Report) and would be the point of contact for Prison
Release Teams.(p.23)
The report acknowledged that the task of reintegration required a whole of government and
community response, and recommended an outsourcing or partnership approach, building
on current partnership arrangements (i.e. the NZPARS contract) to better align services
with our priority needs and future directions (p.14).
By 2010, the Department of Corrections had published a set of operating principles for the
development of a coordinated, department-centred prisoner through-care approach
(Department of Corrections, 2010).

The Emerging Policy Direction

In 2011, a Corrections policy framework emerged which placed the department at the
centre of reintegrative activity, rather than as a component of a framework which involves
community organisations and volunteers in the support and sanction of offenders within the
community i.e. a continuum of care approach. However, there were increasing signs
that the Corrections position had shifted toward the development of (a) a more active role
by iwi and community, and (b) a more active role by its principal service provider, Prisoners
Aid and Rehabilitation Trust, (including volunteer training, and the provision of mentors).2

Personal conversation with Sue Woods, Chairperson, Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Trust

In summary, the Department of Corrections opted for a model of prison reintegration which
was based on risks and needs. These characteristics are an extension of the principles that
underpin prison based rehabilitation. While this model may be appropriate for a
government department primarily concerned with the avoidance of risk, the
implementation of that model within a community setting is problematic. With its focus on
determining what works from an evidence-based perspective, the model lacks the
opportunity for innovation and a coherent underpinning theory of prisoner reintegration. It
is based on a deficit model of reintegration, described by Maruna and LeBel (2002) as riskbased and need-based. Risk-based strategies focus on increasing the surveillance of
former prisoners with new technologies , e.g. electronic monitoring, urine testing, while
need-based strategies focus on providing assistance to former offenders in overcoming
addiction or learning basic skills, with an emphasis on those needs associated with the risk
of reoffending. In some models, needs have become synonymous with risk factors, with
the result that, in effect, meeting needs becomes little more than provision of checks and
forms of social control.

What has become clear, is that offenders are not interested in having their criminogenic
needs met by the state in these ways (see Farrall, 2002). There is a growing criticism about
the negative impact on prisoners of risk assessment and the psychological discourse that
accompanies it. In a recent article, Crewe (2012:516), describes the process as the new
pain of imprisonment commenting,

Many prisoners explain that, to successfully advance through the system, they have
to create a kind of penal avatar. Often, they feel that cognitive-behavioural courses
are telling them to be a different kind of person at worst, a robotic prototype of
responsible citizenship that could not survive the realities of life in the environments
from which they are drawn. Frequently too, they complain that reports take their
comments and behaviour out of context, and that the report-writing process shows
little compassion, humanity or nuance

Should the RNR Framework Apply to Prisoner Reintegration?

The literature is ambivalent about the RNR model in terms of its impact not only on
offenders, but also its impact on communities.

Impact on Offenders

The departments Risk, Need , Responsivity model of rehabilitation and reintegration is in

many ways no different from traditional approaches to medical, psychiatric or substance
abuse treatment. It is symptom-focused and deficit-based. It operates on four flawed
(a) Offenders are essentially different from all other human groups;
(b) Reducing problems will reduce criminal behaviour
(c) If services are made available, offenders will use them, and
(d) Services usually accomplish what they are designed to do

Recent research cited by the European correctional evidence-based practices, comes from a
meta-analysis of those factors that contribute to offender rehabilitation (McNeil et al,
2005). In short, the research shows that:

(a) 40% of all change in offender rehabilitation can be attributed to the

intangible and complex personal resources, including their strengths, that
people bring with them.
(b) 30% of the change is related to the therapeutic relationship between the
offender and those who are there to help in the change process;
(c) 15% of the change can be attributed solely to the offenders belief that
change can happen the expectancy factor;
(d) 15% of the change can be attributed to the intervention (i.e. addressing
criminogenic needs.)

The difficulty is that in designing and implementing correctional and reintegration

programmes, we disregard individuals strength, resources and desires (the 40%), dont hire
people who have excellent relational skills (the 30%), dont believe that hope matters (the
15%) and rely on the remaining 15 % to solve the problem. According to McNeil, the risk,
needs, responsivity model throws away 85% of the resources that could be mobilised to
support formerly imprisoned persons in their efforts to become productive citizens.

Impact on Communities

Academics and practitioners alike caution against using the risk, needs, responsibility model
as a framework for prisoner reintegration. The obsession with risk reduction contributes to
the fear of offenders, and unwillingness on the part of the public to accept them readily into
communities.(Fox, 2012) A consequence of risk fixation is a construction of subjects in the
world as potential victims or perpetrators (Simon, 2007). This tends to undermine effective
reintegration in that it encourages communities to think about crime and risk in ways which
undermine the relationship between the offender and the community.

Impact on Organisational Culture

Some critics believe that if government agencies have a risk orientation, they tend to
interfere in the development of effective reintegration policy, and hinder creative solutions
that community agencies may wish to implement (Shahidullah, 2008; Simon, 2007).
Strength based approaches, when applied to prisoner reintegration, require community
volunteers and workers to suspend illegitimate fears about risk and instead focus on a
shared humanity.

Difficulties will inevitably arise when a government funder with a risk-based orientation is
tasked with overseeing prisoner reintegration service providers running strengths-based
programmes. In a society preoccupied with public safety concerns, and paranoid about
unpredictable behaviour, programmes which rely and accentuate values of trust and
optimism are vulnerable to closure. (Burnett and Maruna: 2006)

Is there a Middle Ground?

In recent years there has been resistance to the development of approaches outside the
RNR model. It is not clear whether the earlier departmental view that reintegration was
primarily about social support, and not about the reduction of reoffending, still holds. In the
2009 What Works Now publication the departments view was that reintegrative services
(social support to released prisoners) can improve outcomes for offenders who have
participated in other forms of rehabilitation, but these on their own do not appear to be
effective.(Department of Corrections, 2009b:55). There is no evidential basis for this view.
It is important the Department of Corrections does not allow itself to be aligned to any one
position, given that it is now committed to moving from a Corrections centred
reintegration process, to one that places primary responsibility with the community.

The challenge to both parties is to develop a model that acknowledges the strengths of both
approaches, rather than promote polarisation between stick and carrot policies on one
hand, and strength based policies on the other they do have the potential to combine and
interact. Even then, acceptance of a fully-fledged strengths based approach will require a
major paradigm shift. (Burnett and Maruna: 2006).

Criminal justice practitioners need to be aware that an ideological battle continues between
those who staunchly defend the RNR model, and those who argue for a strengths based
approach, and augmented approaches such as the Good Lives model. (Ward & Maruna,
2007) Workman describes in full detail the impact this debate has had on the New Zealand
Corrections environment. (Workman: 2011b) Some of these issues are highly complex and
technical, and outside the comprehension of a lay person (refer to Polaschek: 2012).

Establishing an Intervention Logic for Prisoner Reintegration

One of the strengths of the RNR model is its substantial theoretical grounding. Bazemore
and Stitchcombe argue that community responses need to be situated within evidencebased frameworks, drawing upon the accumulated wisdom from three distinct literatures:


identity transformation research at the micro level, life course research at the mesolevel, and community level research at the more macro-level (Bazemore & Stinchcomb,
2004, p. 3).
In short, reintegration programs need to provide ways for returning offenders to create new
identities for themselves by inter-mingling with pro-social individuals and performing
valuable services. In addition, successful reentry programs would account for the changing
nature of criminal commitments and social bonds, drawing upon their mutability to
establish informal social controls (Sampson & Laub, 1995). Finally, communities would also
build capacity to change the retributive culture to a more inclusive and restorative one
through its practices.

Principles in Prisoner Reintegration

The following principles have been identified, as contributing to the prisoner reintegration
process. (Fox 2010)
Balancing support and accountability

Bazemore and Stinchcomb (2004) recommend that offender reentry programs model
themselves upon concepts similar to the best (restorative) practices of community justice,
which balance support with accountability.

Re-establishing a Sense of Community

Restorative justices strengths include re establishing the sense of community and victim
safety, while maintaining or enhancing the offenders attachment to the community. One
way to do this is to repair the harm through community service (Karp & Clear, 2002).
According to Clear and Karp (1999, p. 56), an ideal community justice model would
emphasize the obligations of citizens to one another. Offender reentry programs enact
this ideal insofar as they try to re engage a serious offender after a prison term and alter the
stigmatized identity on both sidesincluding the offenders sense of self and the
communitys perspective on the offender (Bazemore & Stinchcomb, 2004).


Reducing Offender Stigma

In attaching or reattaching the offender to the community, one positive outcome can be
reducing the stigma that comes from a deviant or criminal label (Maruna, 2001; see also
Clear & Karp, 1999). The challenges are somewhat magnified, as communities may feel
more at stake with a returning serious offender, and the offender will likely need more
intensive support services and support to succeed after a long prison stint.

Forging New Identities

Bazemore and Stinchcomb (2004) emphasize several avenues for reintegrating offenders
into communities. Essentially, they argue that individual offenders must have an
opportunity to forge new identities, that they need support systems to attach to, and that
communities must rally to engage offenders. They advocate the social psychological
dimension of engagement in new, pro-social roles that can change a communitys image
of an offender (Bazemore & Stinchcomb, 2004, p. 3). This happens at the micro level of civic
engagement. Clearly, though, helping to create new identities happens in a context of
community opportunities that allow positive reinforcement.
Marshalling Social Capital

Communities must marshal their social capital to provide these occasions to develop
shared norms and values, and build relationships of trust and reciprocity (Bazemore &
Stinchcomb, 2004, p. 3; see also Putnam, 2000).

The Resurgence of Restorative Justice

There is a recent and renewed interest in restorative justice, following a steady decline in
government support from 2003 until 2010 (Workman:2008). New approaches to prisoner
rehabilitation and reintegration can introduce powerful rivals to more punitive orthodoxies.
As Zedner comments:
Where rehabilitation renders the offender the subject of a psycho-social intervention,
restorative justices sets the offender as the author of his own readmission to civil
society. Entirely in accordance with the emphasis on personal responsibility and
individual rationality so central to neo-liberal philosophy, restorative justice may


plausibly be seen as an attempt to revive rehabilitation for a new political era

(Zedner, 2002).

After seven years in the wilderness, the evidence for its effectiveness is compelling a
renewed interest in further development and expansion. A complementary movement has
occurred through linking restorative justice to prisoner reintegration, characterised by
themes of repair, reconciliation and community partnership. (see Coyle, 2001; Newell,
2001; Farrant and Levenson, 2002).

Developments that embrace the principles of restorative justice include Circles of Support
and Accountability (COSA), and Kaupapa Mori Research and Whnau Ora.

COSA Model
Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) is an innovative approach for reintegrating
child sexual offenders safely back into the community. This approach originated in Canada in
the mid-1990s and has been showing success there and in England. The COSA model was
adapted from Canada, (Hannem & Petrunik, 2007; Wilson, McWhinnie, Picheca, Pinzo, &
Cortoni,2007; see also Herron, 2004).

One of the strengths of this approach is that it more evenly balances the needs of individual
communities and those of the sex offender something that is essential for successful
reintegration and therefore wider public safety.

The community of release is represented by a group of about 4-6 volunteers (the Circle)
who are willing to take personal responsibility for supporting the offender (Core Member) in
successfully reintegrating back into the community and also for holding them accountable
for their actions. Volunteers receive extensive training and are fully informed of the
offenders history, patterns of offending and the thoughts and behaviours that are likely to
signal regression. The Circles begin working with the offender before they are released and
are headed by a Circle Coordinator who is connected to (and sometimes works for) other


relevant agencies and professionals (e.g. probations, the police and clinicians) and can call
upon their support and advice as required.

In the Vermont model (Fox, 2010:348) volunteers commit to at least one year. They meet
as a group (COSA team) with the core member (offender) once a weeksometimes for
coffee or lunch, sometimes to do things like bicycle together, or to assist the offender with
money management, teach bus routes, get a library card, grocery shop, and other basic
living skills. They become friends and are a main source of the offenders social encounters.
These practices serve to normalize the offender within the community and testify to
ordinary citizens investment in offenders humanity.

The COSA model is developing in New Zealand, and is the subject of Corrections research.
(Garret: 2011) This presents an opportunity to engage with the department about adapting
the model to include offenders other than sex offenders, in a similar process, at the same
time integrating restorative practise into the mix.

Kaupapa Mori Approaches to Prisoner Reintegration

The Department of Corrections has designed, developed and implemented a wide range of
programmes and services from a Mori world view. These programmes and services
reconnect Mori offenders to Mori culture as a lever to promote and motivate positive
changes. There are varying degrees of Mori cultural content in most rehabilitation
programmes and services offered by the Department.

The impact of these approaches varies. Evidence emerging from effectiveness evaluations
shows that the Te Ao Mori approach strengthens the cultural identity of Mori offenders,
improves their attitudes and behaviours and motivates them to participate in rehabilitation.
Evidence from these evaluations have also highlighted areas requiring further attention. For
example, low referral rates and unclear links into sentence plans.3(Department of
Corrections, 2009b:41)


In a recent paper, Workman examined the issue of Mori Prisoner Reintegration, and the
potential impact of the governments Whnau Ora Strategy, on the reintegration of Mori
prisoners. (Workman: 2011a) He made the point that the rehabilitation and reintegration
model favoured by Corrections is needs based, and functions on the basis that offenders are
different from the rest of society.

The standard response to offenders is to focus on their problems. Logically therefore, if

offenders have a particular set of identifiable disorders and challenges, remedying those
problems should reduce criminality. This assumes that these problems are directly and
causally related to the offenders criminal behaviour in the past and in the future. While
research has demonstrated that certain pre-existing problems, such as drug addiction, are
associated with criminal behaviour, curing the addiction will not necessarily result in a crime
free lifestyle. The way into criminality isnt necessarily the way out in reverse.

The Mori perception is that the department is increasingly concerned with managing risk,
and case management has become a primary tool not for effective rehabilitation but for risk

For generations, Mori have been treated as subjects of dependency, and successive
governments have implemented programmes and policies which are paternalistic, and deny
Mori the opportunity to take control of their lives. One of the reasons for current
resistance to the Department of Corrections, and the poor Mori recidivism rate, is that it
exists in a culture which wants to do things to people, whether or not they are willing
subjects. Stemming from the compliance culture which permeates the organisation,
offenders are, through the sentence management process, subjected to well meaning
decisions about what they need to do in their lives to put things right. It is often deeply
resented by Maori. (see Farrall, 2002).

The reduction of offending by Mori is unlikely to occur through modifications to the

Offender Management System. The locus for the reduction of offending by Mori is within
whnau and the community. Whnau continues to be a key cultural institution for Mori
and is therefore a key (and potentially highly effective) site of intervention and/or

development. The recent emphasis on whnau in social policy acknowledges that changes in
the wellbeing of individual Mori can be brought about by focusing on the collective of
whnau; something Mori have always known. Government policies over many years, have
introduced policies which have undermined and destroyed whnau as a social construct. It
is only in recent times, that whnau has been recognised as a positive social construct which
should be nurtured and supported, rather than as an impediment to economic and social

The promotion of strengths based programmes with a focus on social identity change,
whnau-supported reintegration, and a values based model of transformation is the
approach preferred by Maori. The Whnau Ora strategy has the potential to influence the
current approach to Mori prisoner reintegration

Whnau Ora and the Prison

The communities in which these offending whnaulive, are the appropriate locus for change
and it is in those communities that an ideology which regards victims and offenders as
demographically and morally distinct, absolutely fails. The NZ Crime and Safety Survey tells
us that 50% of all victimizations are experienced by only 6% of New Zealanders and that the
social and demographic indicators that identify those who are most likely to be victimized
are identical to the markers for those likely to be offenders. The life stories and cultural
contexts that weave victims and offenders together (often within the same person) make
any attempt to separate the two an exercise in simplification.

For the above reasons, focusing on the individual needs of Mori prisoners in the
reintegration process, is likely to fail, as evidenced by the higher recidivism rates for Mori
For the reason, a prisoner reintegration strategy for Mori should focus on reintegrative
services which:
(a) Are based on kaupapa Mori values


(b) Fully engage whnau, the wider Mori community, Mori service providers and
(c) Are strength based;
(d) Engage prisoners with their whnau and community;
(e) Align with the governments whnau ora strategy;
(f) Engage with government outcomes within the wider justice sector and beyond;
(g) Promote the practice of restorative justice;
(h) Are guided by the principles of restorative reintegration

Restorative practice and strengths based principles create the space for a kind of
community learning process. Crime and barriers to offender reintegration can from this
perspective be viewed not only as tragic features of modern life but also as an opportunity
for transformative change.(Clear & Karp, 1999) Although there would appear to be clear
limits on the capacity of restorative and community justice programmes to make a
significant dent in crime rates, citizen involvement in conflict resolution and problemsolving may have direct impact on community efficacy. Such enhancements in efficacy
may in turn mobilize support for a vision and practice of community engagement in the
justice process that could have important implications for crime prevention and control.
To do so, restorative processes must be focused on achieving tangible collective outcomes
and must connect with, revitalize and strengthen community-based processes of informal
social control and support.


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