Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Ki Te Arotu(1) toward a New Assessment: The Identification of Cultural Factors Which May Pre-Dispose Maori to Crime

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Ki Te Arotu(1) toward a New Assessment: The Identification of Cultural Factors Which May Pre-Dispose Maori to Crime

Article excerpt


Maori over-representation in the criminal justice system has been a concern to the Maori community and justice-sector government agencies for some time now. The nature and magnitude of this issue emphasises the need to put into place effective strategies and policies to address offending and re-offending by Maori. Integral to this is the accurate identification of risk factors that pre-dispose Maori to crime.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss a current initiative by the Department of Corrections to develop a more effective means of identifying the rehabilitative needs of the New Zealand offender population -- the Criminogenic Needs Inventory (CNI). A substantial component of the CNI focuses on measuring a number of unique Maori culture-related needs (MaCRNs). This paper examines the utility of including distinct cultural factors within a generic needs assessment process and explores the potential implications that such an approach could have for the development of more effective policy to address offending by Maori.


The main objective of the Department of Corrections is to contribute to safer communities by reducing re-offending. In addition, one of its key result areas is the "recognition of the particular needs of Maori in terms of reducing re-offending" (Department of Corrections 1997). In order to achieve this, the Department is in the process of developing systems and procedures, which are in accordance with empirically derived principles of "best practice". Best practice in this context refers to assessment based upon the current psychological models of criminal behaviour that are most strongly supported by empirical evidence. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (Andrews and Bonta 1994) is the theoretical model which the Department of Corrections uses as the basis for guiding its best practice approach to assessment, and other areas of offender management. Consistent with this theory is the comprehensive assessment of offenders according to the three principles of risk, need and responsivity. The assessment, evaluates offenders' risk of further offending (risk principle), and assesses them with respect to (among other things) their need for intervention (need principle), and whether there are rehabilitative programmes that best suit the individual's particular learning style (responsivity principle).

The risk principle holds that intervention is most effective when it targets individuals who have the greatest risk of further criminal offending. The needs principle asserts that there are certain aspects of an individual's functioning -- such as substance abuse and criminal attitudes and associates -- which should be targeted by intervention in order to reduce subsequent offending. A key feature of these "needs" is that they are potentially changeable. The responsivity principle states that offenders will be most affected by interventions that are matched to their particular learning style (Andrews and Bonta 1994).

A systematic, objective and accurate assessment of the individual's offence-related functioning, termed "criminogenic needs", is seen as essential in order for the appropriate targeting of rehabilitative efforts (Andrews and Bonta 1994). Criminogenic needs are features of an offender's personality, lifestyle, and social circumstances, which have been linked to the risk of re-offending (ibid. 1994). Although the last decade has seen a proliferation of studies which attest to the accurate measurement of criminogenic needs as a means of assessing any given individual's potential to re-offend, there has been little information that is directly applicable to the New Zealand context. Moreover, while there is general consensus among North American researchers as to what constitutes criminogenic needs (Andrews and Bonta 1994, Motiuk 1997), there is less agreement as to how such areas within the individual should be assessed (Coebergh et al. …

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