Mass Maori imprisionment a major issue facing society

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40% of all Maori males over the age of 15 years have either been imprisoned or served a community sentence. This figures emerged at the Costs of Crime conference in Wellington today. Kim Workman in his opening address said, “If the government wants to be successful in reducing crime, it must acknowledge and address the downstream effects of imprisoning the Maori population. The phenomena of mass imprisonment is well and truly alive in New Zealand.”

The rate of imprisonment for Maori in 2009/10 was 634 per 100,000 people, compared with a rate of 192 per 100,000 for New Zealand overall. Importantly, Maori who become enmeshed in the system have a greater chance of ending up in jail than non-Maori.

When compared to the USA we see that racial minorities make up 60% of the prison population, while in Australia one in four of Aboriginal men are processed through the Courts every year. Both nations have recognised the impact this has on those ethnic and indigenous communities. But according to Mr. Workman the NZ government has largely ignored this.

“Mass imprisonment” describes a situation where imprisonment rates are far higher than the comparative and historical norm, and fall disproportionately on particular (often racial) groups, so that the effects cease to be explicable in terms of individual offending and involve whole communities. In this situation, imprisonment becomes part of the socialisation process. Every family, every householder, every individual in these neighbourhoods has direct personal knowledge of the prison -through a spouse, a child, a parent, a neighbor, a friend. Imprisonment ceases to be a fate of a few criminal individuals and becomes a shaping institution for whole sectors of the population”.

“High rates of imprisonment in vulnerable communities break down the social and family bonds that guide individuals away from crime, remove adults who would otherwise nurture children, deprive communities of income, reduce future income potential, and engender a deep resentment toward the legal system. As a result, communities become less capable of managing social order through family or social groups. That in turn, sends the crime rates up further.”

“We have reached a tipping point, where the incarceration of Maori is causing social damage within their own communities.”

“Unlike the USA, the UK and Australia, the concept of mass imprisonment has not been openly recognised or researched. If we are to quantify the cost of imprisonment, and identify strategies which can work to improve the current situation, research is urgently required. That is particularly crucial if the government is looking to shift resources away from imprisonment toward those communities that generate crime.”

Kim Workman called for the establishment of an independent research institute to examine the issues of Maori within the criminal justice system.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Our stats across the board are slowly improving but we need to look at sharing our cultural knowledge i.e. Maori/Pakeha because the treaty was only between these two peoples – so we need not begin going down the track of ‘but we’re multicultural’ that’s not the issue. I have always been an advocate of setting up a co-cultural system to be used in all our educative material so that we get the best of both worlds. The western system is failing us – we can see it in the prisons, education, health etc… and without going into too much detail – the playing field has never been equal. When Maori lost their economic base through dubious confiscation of masses of land – Maori were place on the back foot. I am continuously amazed at how resilient we have been over the years which in chronological terms is relatively short for a repressed and suppressed people to begin making headway into different modern fields through positive and innovative actions. I would like to be a part of that Co-cultural system which means that we rewrite all educative material to include Maori ideology, philosophy and teaching/learning techniques which so far have been very much mono cultural and Christian based. I have walked the talk and taken a culturally based behavioural change program in prisons and seen the guys turn their own lives around because the cultural material convicted them at a heart and soul level. But getting back to the economic base which made the playing field totally uneven – look at : http://www.positivemoney.org.nz/. This is what we as Maori need to look at really seriously. Sweden has been doing this for over 50 years under a JAK Banking regime which the World Bank tried to stifle but were unsuccessful. It’s overall theme is to discourage profits which get lent out to people at no or little interest. The real profit comes from helping people get into their own homes or start up their own businesses. i.e. it is people profit centred. He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. Compounding interest is the major cause of inflation. Using the no/little interest (JAK) system prevents inflation so that in 50 yrs time the dollar still has the same value and buying power. While we belong to a money system based on greed and lining the pockets of already wealthy bank shareholders, we will never fully recover but simply duplicate what the western system is doing to us today and like Greece we will head into an economic crisis which can be avoided now that iwi have an economic base from which to launch. I’llbe keen to see others comments.

  2. Aoetearoa is way more than pakeha and maori. Maori have fought their way through the trials and tribulations of society, on many instances have fallen short of the heart of newzealand standards and have become more inclined to be used as guinea pigs to set the mark on all who follow them.
    Pakeha is not a race it is a maori word used to describe white skin, regardless if you be, English, Irish, Scottish or from the neverlands. Maori is a race of ingenious people that have a whakapapa and iwi they can stand with, this is what Maori’s need to be stronger in and make better, alot of disrespect for changes occurred in history causing many to rebel and create disruption, it is taking along time to get harmony back on track for aoetearoa to be the best way forward for the next generation. Maori need to be proud of their respective fields and manage their way through accordingly with out all the hoo -ha and the remaining balance of newzealand needs to respect, accept and live in harmony with you.
    .first accept what cannot be changed, strength to change what can and wisdom to know the difference. Want free rent, free food and a bed for the night, sweet as live your life in jail, but remember there is always a price to pay for your actions., surrender the bullshit and live in harmony. Thankyou for reading my input,

  3. Sorry Kim Workman we don’t need more research, we need to recognise the human rights of prisoners, we need to de-incarerate and reinvest the millions of $ given to private prison corporations back into our communities. What can we do do whanau to dismantle the prison industrial complex in Aotearoa/NZ ?

    • We need to look at using Maori methods to get to the young men and women inside – to build up their pride in being Maori and then to define what it means to be a positive Maori model and how to go about living it in a real way so that spouses, whanau members can see the change. But it needs to be practical, motivational and realizable using traditional cultural material and beliefs. I believe I have a package that can do that. So called Maori programs I have seen are nothing but western ideas and methods dressed up to look like Maori material. The system I have gleaned from the pakiwaitara and purakau systems belongs soley to our people – and they work. I know because I’ve taken in prisons ans seen them change, not because they had to follow a set of rules – there are none – but because they couldn’t ignore their own indigenous understandings. The programs called Mauri Hauora.

  4. I have been told by my mother that I am 3.1% of Maori DNA, and the rest is boring old Anglo Saxon.
    I got involved with drugs and alcohol in my late teens and early 20s. I got caught by the police and arrested for a few minor offences. When asked by the authorities what ethnic group I identified with? “I said New Zealander”.
    Apparently this is the wrong answer! I should have said either Pakeha (yuk)or Maori (Special priviliges and rewards apply here). I stuck with New Zealander and got sentenced and fined accordingly.(to the maximum).
    My question to you all is: “How much Maori do I have to have in me before I am considered to be an ethnic Maori who has committed a criminal act, and then gets special easy treatment because of this.” I have always taken my punishment on the chin. This is because I did the crime and did not look for an excuse for my poor behaviour.
    I have a very strong opinion that the statistics of incarcerated Maori is skewed because every damn loser who is only a part Maori(less than 50%) uses the Maori race card to get special softer treatment than a New zealander of any other ethnic group would receive.
    Give it up Maori… if you are brought up by loser parents and have no community values instilled in you by an early age. Then suffer the consequences of what good society dishes out to you!!.

    • Karl, first of all to answer your first question about identity, you are using the tired, discredited, racist old blood quantum argument about who is/is not Maori. If you are Maori you whakapapa to a hapu or iwi, whether you choose to do so is entirely up to you. Second, your comment about getting ‘special privileges’ is again tired, and totally without evidence. What special privileges exactly would you receive from the criminal justice system if you had chosen to identify as Maori? Since you don’t actually identify any I will answer the question for you… none, zero; you certainly don’t receive lighter sentences – in fact research shows exactly the opposite – you are much less likely to receive a non-custodial sentence or for police to use their discretion to arrest and lay charges. Lastly, your ‘opinion’ on the high # of people claiming to be Maori so they receive special treatment, hence high # of Maori inmates, etc, is total rubbish; not an opinion, nothing more than a myth. If not, provide some evidence to back this claim.

    • Hey Karl – it’s not about being right or pointing the finger aye – it’s about making changes to yourself mate. Walk the talk and then let your actions, not your mouth be a physical demonstration of your life. Everyone has the right and ability to change but many of them need a helping hand to put them on the path toward leading a more productive life.

  5. I am glad for ANY forum that Maori can air their views and if what I have read is correct, so can the ignorant, more than a little sad, hugely entertaining racists comments from sad individuals. I feel sorry for them as they do not have a history that is worthy of preserving, a language that is both lyrical and beautiful, people that are both loving, forgiving yet strong and decisive. Despite the odds that colonisation has put in our way we will survive and we will prosper. You know why because we have beautiful young maori men like my son and women who can play any sport, compete with any race in any academic, business, music and arts arena, who are not in the least worried about racists. You see them in Kapa haka groups, on current affairs programmes, on the rugby field, at Stanford and Harvard universities or on the worlds music stage. So run hide ignorant people with no culture just your hate and paranoia to validate you. Whaia your son death will not be forgotton as long as you keep his story alive. A very proud Maori mother of a half cast son and daughter who can trace their ancestry back to Hawaiiki.

  6. how long maori ma are we going to sit here on our tupuna whenua and allow the putrid diseased pakeha tauiwi lord it over us while we be a mockery of our tinorangatiratanga i had a son named nicholas ward harris he was murdered in waikeria on 9 january 2011 he was in ra=emand for petty crimes but the corrections took it upon themselves to murder him ???? and he did not go to court to be trialled for his crime they the govt decided he need to be bashed to death because he was maori!!!!!!!and he was one of 55 others unsolved killings in that prison of the govt whatever he did i know he did not need to bashed to death before he was prounounced dead or guilty and they cannot tell me why???????

    • Not sure why he died but was probably killed by another maori. Don't blame the pakeha for your issues and lack of ability to follow the law of the land. You lot signed a treaty to obey the law and yet you fail to do this. I am sorry for the death of your son and sympathise :(. This is not about your son but about Maori in general.
      Maori are a failed race, they failed in their homeland, they failed in NZ and those who are successes have a good deal of white genes in them. It is not genetic really but the reality they live in and ignorance, lack of education and criminal assocation. I wish we had a Nazi govt in NZ which would eliminate the problem for good. Not all maori but those who offend us all.

      • many of you on this site are highly racist and do not know what you are saying, many of the comments that i have read have had scraps of truth and a hole lot of bullshit, like this” I think the Maoris in general lack intelligence: their society is criminal in general in that they nearly all belong to a gang in one form or another, do not wash that often and take drugs. This is covered up with mythological subservience to the ancient Maori gods which never existed really and doing kapa haka. The reality is like mafia families Maori are criminal families. Pay the price and if that means the end of Maoris that could be a good thing for the world.”that is like saying that all Japanese people are Yakuza, all Americans are Mafia its complete crap, how can people possibly judge a race on a couple offenders and i would like to conclude that that Maori only agreed to sign the treaty because it meant peace t last but they were tricked by the Pakeha government, that by the signing of the treaty of waitangi we Maori allowed Pakeha to taker our land and we weren’t allowed to do anything about it.

        p.s children read this site and some of them show how distressing this arguing and lies affect them so please keep it civilized and no more arguing!

  7. Yeah! you do the crime, you do the time, are they mostly "Maori" just because

    they got a little or looks get it right have you heard of a halfcast pakeha with abit of "Maori" or other , I know theres a lot o wanabys out there get the class right ! theres Our"yh go'n bro ! got any coin ? & Kei te p?hea, kei te pai k?e? . get the reo & whakapapa right.

    • There are no full blooded maoris in NZ and there have not been any for a long time.
      They act the ignorant savage to get money for lost lands from years ago: perhaps we should claim rights from the vikings for invading England all those years ago which took my rights as a potential celtic king away. I think the Maoris in general lack intelligence: their society is criminal in general in that they nearly all belong to a gang in one form or another, do not wash that often and take drugs. This is covered up with mythological subservience to the ancient Maori gods which never existed really and doing kapa haka. The reality is like mafia families Maori are criminal families. Pay the price and if that means the end of Maoris that could be a good thing for the world.

  8. The questions must be asked why! Why are we so intertwind with a legal system which has been built on false pretence?If you do the crime then you must do the time? Therefore it was only through time that these early crimes were alllowed to strive in abundance. So I ask, how easy it must have been to create laws based on needs for early new zealanders and yet have no consideration for the hardship on native society? Skip ahead to today 170 years later and criminality is now billion dollar industry so without criminals what will be the purpose for jails. I know for a fact that maoridom alrealy had it's own form of lore/law before the arrival of pakeha that reflected his/her physical and spiritual well being. A code of conduct that protected his/her native enviromrent based on strong belief in the world. I'm a believer in the Treaty of Waitangi and how it stands as a binding document of both Maori and Pakeha (Crown).

  9. i am the mother of NICHOLAS WARD HARRIS he was murdered on remand on 9 january 2011 the corrections and the govt authorities in charge of the prisons in this country cannot tell how or why son was murdered,bashed,hung,and whatever other lies they try and feed me i have been asking for an explaination none is forthcoming

    i don't have a problem with the criminals that commit crime to do the time but my son was not a criminal he had been sent to tiaho mai a mental health unit in middlemore hospital they discharged him because he was assessed as not psychotic if they had of assessed him for his physical condition they would have found out about his larger than normal enlarged heart and found out sooner about his heart was diseased which was causing him to act abnormal i am still waiting for them to contact me to have him bailed to my address but its all too late for any of that be cause he was murdered in waikeria and jkey hides behind legistration and i do not have a death certificate to qualify how or why he deceased in custody

    and thats not all there are 54 others probably maori that have exactly the same circumstances as my son how long have they been waiting for closure????

    who the phuk cares well these prisoners have families that care and pay the price too in the bigger picture and phuken hell it doesn't matter coz we all know that our people are the targetted audience no matter what the crime is ours will wear the time be coz thats just the way the pakeha are and yet if you check back on history over the past 200yrs all the criminals in this land were from the penal colony of england and australia and their kind came here to errect their own phuken bullshit authority on the tangata whenua and so wat they still kilol our loved ones like my son nicky and get away with just like they have gotten away with the others before him and i can how ever long it takes for the correction to give the real truth to this tragic slaughter of my son so not every maori that goes to the whitemans jail is a crimnal they are also trying to hide behind his health conditions that makes his murder even more disgusting and its appears to be the way to go with all the prison systems in this country do the time is fine but i thought the DEATH PENALTY is outlawed here??????

    • You are not the Tangata Whenua, you lot have been here for a short while and are not indegenous to these islands but from Thailand. Your son was criminal in that he committed criminal acts. Seems you are thinking only of yourself and not the families he offended deeply and gutted.

      I would not build prisons for Maoris but concentration camps.

      • So true mate. All moaris wana do is try to alleviate their responsibilitys for their actions. This many moaris in prison means one thing. They are a bunch of criminals, who refuse to obey the laws of society and common decent behaviour, for the most part.

  10. @Robert. What world do you live in? Your explanation is that by going to prison you aren't part of an elite society? What is being suggested is more research into why there are so many Maori going to prison and shifting resources into communities, rather than prison. I am saying send the bastards to prison. You commit the crime, pay the time. You might want a rapist in your house. Go for it. And if my foot is on your throat, then that is your perception. Not my reality.

  11. This is a stunning example of highlighting a problem but not having an answer. Its sensationalism.

    So you have someone who commits a crime. What do you do with them. Punishment by taking away their rights is absolutely fair. If someone rapes your daughter no amount of restorative justice will do (personal experience). Some of these people need to be incarcerated! Surely there is already research out there that paints a picture of 'what if'. Too many Maori in prison, implies that too many Maori commit crimes. They probably wouldn't be there if they were in jobs, had healthy whanau support, didnt do drugs and drive drunk.

    To suggest that its mass imprisonment? I don't agree. Just too many Maori are committing crimes. Don't blame the system – personal accountability must prevail.

    Im not convinced that more research into mass imprisonment is a wise spend. Its a theoretical exploration into stories, which have already been told.

    • I do agree that we should instead celebrate the many Maori who have slipped through the gaps and have not become members of this elite set. Members of the Maori Culture that have never been to prison or on a work scheme courtesy of the Community Probation Service. This is where the stories of 'how not to' should be coming from.

      Why are we putting ourselves down when there are enough Tracey's in the

      world willing to keep their foot on our throats.

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