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Maori Party Condemns Rising Prison Population

Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leaders, Maori Party;

The Maori Party has today condemned the rising prison population as a crisis which needs urgent attention. “The all-time new record high of 7500 inmates is an indictment on our justice system” stated Dr Sharples.

“New Zealand's rate of imprisonment, at 155 inmates per 100,000 population, is second only to the United States. This is not something that we should be proud of” said Dr Sharples.

“The time has come to look objectively at our justice system, and make the effort to seriously consider alternatives to imprisonment”.

“I am appalled to learn of reports this week of prison inmates being held in vans to avoid breaching agreed muster numbers, or being farmed out to other venues in order to have a simple wash”.

“The punishment people receive when they go to prison is to be deprived of their liberty” said Mrs Turia. “We should not then subject them to further punishment, in the way in which they are treated”.

‘We all have a part to play in reducing rates of incarceration” said Mrs Turia. “Communities, families, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles must play their part. As members of whanau, we can all take up the call to challenge behaviour and then support potential offenders to make the changes necessary to keep out of trouble”.

“Calling for more police may not necessarily be the answer" said Mrs Turia. "Maori wardens can and do assist in relating to young people, and suggesting alternatives to the negative behaviour they may be involved in. The wardens however, need to be resourced for that which they do voluntarily".

“If criminal offending is the problem, prison does not have to be the only answer”. More police means more apprehension, means more prosecution, more judges, more incarceration, more and larger prisons. Is that what we really want as a caring community?” said Dr Sharples.

“We need to get our best minds together to work out ways that are alternatives to what we are currently doing".

"New Zealand needs to invest also in the rehabilitation of offenders, investigating responses which include reparation and healing” concluded Mrs Turia.

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