Delivering Safe and Effective Justice – what NZers Think
Delivering Safe and Effective Justice – what New Zealanders think
9/06/2019, 9:15:00 am
The overwhelming message from New Zealanders is that regardless of how they come into contact with the justice system, it is failing them and their families and there is a need for transformative and sustained change, according to a new report released today.
The report from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, He Waka Roimata (A Vessel of Tears), provides valuable insights into public attitudes and ideas about New Zealand’s justice system, says Te Uepū’s Chair Chester Borrows.
“Our advisory group was set up by the Justice Minister to conduct an honest and constructive conversation with New Zealanders on how we can deliver safer and more effective justice,” says Chester Borrows.
“We listened to thousands of New Zealanders from all over the country at our public events, through our website and social media, and at events we attended. We heard from interested members of the public, as well as those who have been victimised, prosecuted for offending or who offer services to communities that have been affected.
“The overwhelming impression we got from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief. Far too many New Zealanders feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect - and in many cases has caused more harm.
“We heard that the current system simply isn’t delivering effective justice, and a 60 per cent reoffending rate within two years of a person leaving prison is some evidence of its ineffectiveness.
“We’re hearing that many victims are left with a sense that justice has not been done. People are feeling let down at their most vulnerable time.
“And for Māori the legacy of colonisation comes in many forms, many of them with tragic consequences, as is the case in all colonised countries where indigenous peoples are over-represented in prison. This legacy is a gross unfairness and something we should not tolerate in New Zealand.
“There is widespread recognition that at every point in their lives, and over generations, Māori experience disadvantage that increases the risk they will come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“We’re convinced from what we’ve heard that solutions already exist and that people from all sectors of society want to be actively engaged in building a justice system that all people can be collectively proud of.
“We’re now developing a response to the themes and ideas raised by the public, which we will provide later this year,” says Chester Borrows.
Te Uepū’s report complements ongoing work by the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice Programme and the recent Victims Issues Workshop and Hui Māori: Ināia Tonu Nei Safe and Effective Justice forum.
Scoop copy of report: teuepureport_hewakaroimata.pdf
Te Uepū sought to actively listen to and understand what New Zealanders think about the current system.
They heard many diverse views, including from people harmed by crime and people who have offended. They also heard from their whānau and families, their communities and those who provide services within the system.
The overwhelming emotion they encountered is one of grief - because so many people feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect. Associated with this grief is often anger. However, they also heard about the importance of hope and the belief that we can build a system that works for everyone.
He Waka Roimata covers the following major themes emerging from the group’s conversations:
• too many people who have been harmed by crime feel unheard, misunderstood and re-victimised
• the number of Māori in the system is a crisis
• violence is an enormous problem, particularly for families and children
• formal justice processes
fail us too often
the system is too focused on punishment and neglects prevention, rehabilitation, reconciliation and repair of the harm done by crime
• individuals, families and whānau feel unsupported and disempowered by the system, and the ability of iwi, hapū, communities, NGOs and others to provide support is constrained by the siloed nature of government structures and funding arrangements
• people experiencing mental distress lack the support they need.
Te Uepū concluded that the need for transformative change is urgent. Successful transformation of the criminal justice system will require a deliberate focus on people who have been harmed, people who offend and their whānau and families in their wider social context. It will also require reform throughout the whole system and a long-term commitment to change.
They are convinced from what they have heard that solutions already exist, and that people want to be actively engaged in building a justice system that we can all be proud of. They are now developing a response to the themes and ideas raised by the public.