Waitangi Tribunal report on prisons “does not go far enough”
No Pride in Prisons says Waitangi Tribunal report on prisons “does not go far enough”
The Waitangi Tribunal report into the disproportionate reoffending rate for Māori, Tū Mai Te Rangi!, has been criticised by the prison abolitionist organisation No Pride in Prisons.
“The Waitangi Tribunal said what has been common knowledge for some time now: the justice system is failing Māori,” says No Pride in Prisons spokeswoman Emilie Rākete.
No Pride in Prisons agrees with the Tribunal’s finding that the extremely high reoffending rates of Māori, and the Crown’s failed responses, are a breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. “However, the recommendations made by the Tribunal are extremely limited and do not address the racism at the core of the criminal justice system.”
The Tribunal recommends increasing the decision-making powers of Corrections’ Māori Advisory Board in order, it says, to better represent Māori interests. It recommends that the Advisory Board be tasked with creating a new strategy, in “partnership” with Corrections, for reducing reoffending by Māori.
No Pride in Prisons rejects this. “Māori interests cannot be represented in a criminal justice system designed to oppress our people. There is no basis for the use of incarceration in tikanga Māori,” says Ms Rākete.
“A Māori Advisory Board that cannot remove prisoners from Crown custody and provide a humane, tika alternative to prisons is a scam. It will merely rubber-stamp the same racist policies Corrections has used for decades.”
“The Crown is locking more and more of our people away in prison. Simply having more Māori in positions of power within a broken justice system will not stop this. This recommendation will only brownwash the Crown’s racist prison system.”
The Tribunal also recommends that measurable targets be introduced to reduce Māori reoffending, that there be greater Treaty-awareness for Corrections staff, and that the Corrections Act be amended to mention tangata whenua and the Treaty.
“None of these recommendations go far enough in addressing the real problem. Criminality is caused by poverty, and imprisoning people only makes poverty worse,” says Rākete.
“The Tribunal’s recommendations consider neither the underlying causes of criminalisation nor alternatives to the use of prisons. This means the recommendations do not truly fight the racism of the criminal justice system.”
“The only meaningful way to end the racism of New Zealand prisons is to end incarceration as we know it.”