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New Corrections plan for Māori “repeat of failed policies"

New Corrections plan for Māori reoffending “repeat of failed policies”

The Hōkai Rangi plan for reducing Māori reoffending announced today fails to fulfil the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations, says justice organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa. Minister Kelvin Davis announced the plan this morning, which aims to reduce the proportion of Māori prisoners from over 50% to 15%. Details made public so far include changes in visitation and rehabilitation programme procedures, sensitivity training for prison officers and administrators, and “co-design” of the Corrections system with Māori in the context of a Treaty partnership.

“In 2017 the Waitangi Tribunal found that Corrections needed a strategy to fix the very high rate at which Māori are reimprisoned. In that report, the Tribunal noted that Corrections was not making policy that responded to the causes of Māori mass incarceration,” says People Against Prisons Aotearoa spokesperson Emilie Rākete. “Now, in 2019, the new Corrections strategy still totally ignores the structural causes of Māori mass incarceration.”

“Māori live in the worst poverty, with the most crowded schools, and in the most unhealthy housing in the country, and that’s what causes mass incarceration,” says Rākete. “Vague promises that visits from whānau will be easier, there might be more addiction counselling, and prison officers will do a course on not being racist does not fix these. Hōkai Rangi is just proposing services that already exist in prisons and have already totally failed to reduce Māori reimprisonment.”

“The unimaginable misery of being poor and Māori in this country grinds on, and Hōkai Rangi just fiddles with how we punish the people who endure that misery.”

People Against Prisons is also critical of the suggestion that Hōkai Rangi will involve some form of co-design between Corrections and Māori.

“Tikanga Māori cannot exist in a prison. Since the 1980s, leading justice scholar Moana Jackson has been saying that Māori never used prisons to punish people, and no effort to Māorify prisons can change that,” says Rākete.

“Teaching someone the words to Tūtira Mai in their prison cell won’t fix the social and economic inequality that put them there. To end mass incarceration we need to end unemployment, end homelessness, and implement the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations to make benefits liveable. Hōkai Rangi ignores all of this vital work in order to rebrand stale, failed policy.”

ENDS

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