19 Aug 2019

Māori need to helm prison changes for real success - advisory group

From Morning Report, 8:10 am on 19 August 2019
Prison jail cells bars incarceration generic

Photo: Unsplash / Matthew Ansley

Allowing prisoners more contact with their families and kaupapa Māori programmes in every prison are just two of the sweeping changes being planned for the country's prison system.

Announced today, Hōkai Rangi is a five-year strategy which aims to cut the proportion of Māori in prison from 52 percent down to 16 percent - to match the Māori population.

Prison staff will be expected to treat inmates with respect and see them worthy of dignity and care.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis spoke to Māori News Correspondent Leigh-Marama McLachlan about the massive shift in approach, and said he is proud of the changes.

"We can’t keep defending the status quo, we’ve got to be courageous enough to do something different,” he said.

"It just makes common sense that those people most affected, that they and their whānau, and their hapu, and their iwi - that they are part of the solutions."

Julia Whaipooti from the Justice Advisory Group to Morning Report it is a brave step, however Māori need to lead the changes for the best outcome.

"We know that the expertise to make that happen does not exist within corrections. So how they are going to work with Māori and ensure that Māori are leading the implementation and change, that is what is important and that will be the measure of success."

Justice reform advocate Sir Kim Workman said the government should be commended for launching these changes, but a culture shift will be needed for it to be successful.

“When you think for the last 10 years, Māori were invisibilised within the corrections system … from there we’ve jumped a huge step towards this very focused approach, and it’s going to require a culture change.”