I just watched “Locked Up Warriors” on 101 East on Al Jazeera. It is pretty sobering to watch. The message I got from it: Maori in soul destroying poverty; too much money spent on prisons; not enough money and government support of low income communities; some communities are doing some very good things on very little money, to support their people.
The article under the video says:
New Zealand ranks as one of the world’s most peaceful countries in the Global Peace Index every year. Yet despite a strong reputation for social justice and equality, the South Pacific nation has the second highest rate of imprisonment rates in the western world.
In the past two decades, the jail population has doubled. One international study examining law and order across western nations attributes it to a “tough on crime” approach by New Zealand’s political parties since the 1980’s, even though crime rates are low.
Today each prisoner costs on average $94,000 to lock up and the current government has described New Zealand’s prison problem as a moral and fiscal failure.
Making sure the punishment fits the crime is a widely debated subject in New Zealand but what is undeniable is the gross over representation of minorities in jails.One in two prisoners is indigenous Maori even though they only account for just 15 percent of the population. Maori are over represented in all sectors of the criminal justice system due to soaring rates of child poverty, school dropout, unemployment and family breakdown within indigenous communities.
It’s a long term problem and successive governments have failed too many people. The current government is doing way too little, and spending too much on prisons, while the crime rate is dropping.
CTU on unemployment in December 2012:
Maori unemployment is 14.8 percent, Pacific unemployment is now up at 16 percent, and youth unemployment (15-19 years) has gone up to an unacceptable 30.9 percent.
As a population group, Māori have on average the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand.
Mike Mather in the Waikato Times last month:
“Maori health is a shared responsibility.
“We have a long way to go, but by working together we can and are making a difference.”
Te Puna Oranga was involved in several initiatives to try to lift Maori out of the tough situations many in the Waikato found themselves in.
Chief among these was the Project 270 child poverty initiative, a key part of which was the Kai in Schools (KiS) programme targeting the 45 decile 1, 2 and 3 schools in the Waikato.
Children who had breakfast were more likely to attend, and be able to concentrate at, school, and therefore learn.
“It’s the major way of breaking the poverty cycle. You can’t learn at school if you are hungry.”
Educated children were more likely to grow up to get better paying jobs and lift their families and communities out of poverty, Mr Tamatea said.
Board member Martin Gallagher said he endorsed the food in schools programmes like KiS, as well as getting doctors or health professionals based at lower-decile schools.
Wikipedia says NZ’s Dept of Corrections is a growth area:
The Department’s growth has been such that in July 2010, Finance Minister Bill English expressed concerns that Government spending was “led by a rapidly expanding prison system which would soon make Corrections the government’s biggest department”. As at December 2011, New Zealand had 20 prisons and the Department employed over 8,000 staff. The Department’s operating budget is over $1 billion a year.
The programme is available on youtube
The video is hard to watch in the first section, because it shows people talking about their violent crimes, and criminal experiences in gangs.
I worry that the first part of the programme focuses too much on the negative aspects of Maori lives. The later part shows a more positive representation of initiatives being done to stop re-offending and embrace ex-offenders in their communities.
Do you think this is a fair representation of one aspect of NZ?