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Māori Face Significant Harm From Axing Govt Funding Of Background Reports

Māori will be among the most impacted by the government’s cruel, irrational, and senseless plan to stop funding pre-sentencing background reports.

“Today the Government has taken us even further away from a justice system that treats everyone with humanity, dignity, and respect,” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for the courts, Tamatha Paul.

“While pre-sentencing background reports are available to anyone, the ongoing and heartbreaking over-representation of Māori in our courts means that it is our people who will be hurt the most.

“For decades, governments have created a justice system that ignores drivers of crime and instead puts people in prisons with inadequate rehabilitation support. The whole point of being able to request a background report is so a judge can better understand some of the reasons that may have led to an offence happening.

“They can cover things like substance abuse, personality disorders, neurodivergence, learning difficulties, brain injuries, poverty, and trauma – including family violence and sexual violence.

“Right now, 60% of Māori in prison have been a victim of family violence - that's 2,400 people. Reducing the prison population can go hand-in-hand with reducing reoffending through using more suitable community based sentences that have better rehabilitative outcome.

“Having this information at hand means sentencing and rehabilitation can be informed by the personal circumstances of the offender - and action can be taken to help prevent further offending happening again in the future. This is better for the offender themselves, for their whānau, for their community, and for Aotearoa as a whole.

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“What National won’t tell you is that without the sort of information included in a cultural report, the risk of future offending is likely to be higher than it would be otherwise. In other words, their ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric once again serves no one other than the people in power.

“We need a government that will work toward a justice system that restores mana to our people and communities and heals the harms of intergenerational trauma. A government that will create meaningful alternatives to putting people in prison,” says Tamatha Paul.

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