Kelvin Davis, Andrew Little and the Maori caucus in the Labour Party are showing their mettle by proposing reforms to the prison system that are radical and which will no doubt incense the lauranorda brigade.
Let’s face it. The current system is not working. Our incarceration rates are high and the incarceration rate for Maori and Pacifica is appalling high. Maori make up 52% of the total numbers behind bars which jarrs when you note that they make up only 15% of the general population.
The causes are complex. Poverty particularly in the formative years and the effects of loss of Maori land and marginalisation of Maori culture are major contributors. A recent report, He Waka Roimata, was brutal in its assessment, the causes are colonialism and racism.
Thomas Manch at Stuff had this report:
Grief and colonisation sit at the heart of a criminal justice system that must change, a Government report has found.
The report, He Waka Roimata or A Vessel of Tears, was released on Sunday and makes a case for transformation of a criminal justice system “clearly not working”.
“Some of what we heard was confronting; some has been more optimistic. Without doubt, the clearest call we heard is the call for change,” it says.
The report was produced by the Government-appointed Te Uepū pai i te Ora – Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group after more than 220 public meetings nationwide.
“Among these conversations the overwhelming emotion we encountered is one of grief” it reads.
And the Government has responded with the release of the Hōkai Rangi programme with the direct aim of reducing the incidence of Maori incarceration down to the proportion that Maori occupy of the population. From Radio New Zealand:
An iwi leader has lauded a new strategy to reduce the Māori prison population as heroic and brave, but warns it won’t succeed if Corrections is left to do it alone.
After a decade without a Māori strategy, Corrections today launched Hōkai Rangi, which aims to eventually reduce the number of Māori in prison from 50 per cent to 16 per cent, proportional to the Māori population.
How the programme success will be measured has yet to be decided, but Corrections chief executive Christine Stevenson said she wanted to see a “decent drop” in the Māori prison population over the next five years.
Under the programme, prisoners will get more visits from whānau and prison staff provided extra training to ensure prisoners are treated with dignity.
Ngāti Kahungunu chairperson Ngahiwi Tomoana said it was “quite a heroic effort from the current minister” and the iwi would be supporting him all the way.
The statement and intent are brave. In ten years time we will hopefully see a reversal of this most appalling of statistics.