22 Jul 2015

Lack of Māori staff at Mt Eden Prison

8:45 am on 22 July 2015

A former prisoner who has run tikanga programmes for offenders said there's a lack of Māori staff at Mt Eden Prison.

The privately-run prison has been in the spotlight since footage of inmates fighting, smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol was shared on social media.

Mt Eden Prison

Photo: RNZ

Shane White said he was not surprised by the videos, as the prison was a frustrating place, where men with high energy levels were locked down with nothing to do.

He said understaffing at the corrections facility and a lack of understanding from prison staff added to the frustration.

"Staff who have no real connection to the people in there. I hope this doesn't come across as in anyway racial but there's very few Māori staff in there and most of the inmates are Māori.

"So, you know, the lack of connection and valuing of what those people value, the way that families are treated when they visit, this all adds to the stress."

Mr White said the Corrections budget was huge and more resources should go to Māori organisations to run programmes for Māori offenders.

"There's a huge chance to intervene but the majority of programmes that are run in jail take a clinical Western approach, even though some of them have Māori names."

"There's quite a condescending attitude in there, that's aimed at fixing up the broken people and treating them. Maybe it's more about giving them space and the right resources, so they can find healing themselves.

"I go back to the name 'Corrections' - they're there to correct people. Well, Māori are really hard people to correct and when you try and fix me I'll dig my feet in, but if you come along and support me, and work alongside me then I'll work with you."

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