23 Apr 2018

Govt yet to pursue idea of separate Māori prison

8:07 pm on 23 April 2018

The Corrections Minister has not looked to advance an idea he pushed while in opposition, to establish a separate Māori prison.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis

Corrections Minister, Kelvin Davis. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

And a decision on whether to build a new $1 billion prison at Waikeria in rural Waikato is still pending - a month after Kelvin Davis said a final decision would be made.

Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party's leader at the time, Andrew Little.

As Labour's opposition spokesperson, Mr Davis argued prisoner numbers could be reduced through rehabilitation programmes in a prison run on a kaupapa Māori based approach.

In February this year, he said he was not ruling anything in or out, when asked whether he'd be progressing any units or prisons based on a Māori-only model.

Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison.

He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and "addressing the issue of Māori overrepresentation" in prisons.

"I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori," Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

Record high prison numbers took the last government by surprise, and National Party ministers proposed building the new prison at Waikeria.

Earlier this year, Mr David said a decision would be made whether to proceed with the new prison in March, but as of last week the proposal was still under consideration.

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