Correctional Initiatives for Maori in New Zealand. (CT Feature)
Byers, Mark, Corrections Today
The New Zealand government is committed to reducing the inequalities that currently divide its society. (1) Reducing recidivism by Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, is a key objective of the New Zealand Department of Corrections and is a direct reflection of its commitment to reduce social inequalities. (2) This article outlines the strategies and programs created by the Department of Corrections to help achieve this goal.
Maori are part of the Polynesian cultures in the South Pacific. They comprise 14.5 percent of the total population of approximately 3.7 million people in New Zealand. Thirty-five percent of Maori are younger than 15, compared to 23 percent of the total New Zealand resident population. (3)
Traditional Maori society is based on kinship groups: hapu iwi and whanau. (See the Glossary on Page 26 for an explanation of these and other Maori terms.) Hapu, iwi and whanau are related through their genealogy to common ancestors and the land. These kinship ties and relationships to tribal lands still are integral to Maori society today.
In 1840, Maori signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown to enable the peaceful acquisition of land for settlement and to ensure that immigrants could come in peace to live in New Zealand. In return, the Crown was to respect Maori authority over its lands, fisheries, forests and other aspects of Maori culture, and extend British citizenship to Maori people. (4)
Since then, Maori culture has undergone major change as a result of colonization. The negative effects have been a reduced population due to the introduction of new diseases, the confiscation of Maori-owned land, which inhibited the ability of Maori to maintain and develop a strong economic base, and cultural alienation due to discouragement of language and traditional customs. Colonization and the subsequent urbanization of Maori also have contributed to diminishing the role of traditional institutions such as hapu, iwi and whanau, in governing conduct. (5)
Department of Corrections
The Department of Corrections manages custodial and noncustodial sentences imposed by the courts. This includes prison sentences, periodic detention, home detention, and community service and supervision. The department also provides information to the judicia and administers the Parole Board and the District Prisons Board.
There are 17 Public Prisons Service institutions; the Auckland Central Remand Prison, which is managed by Australasian Correctional Management; 15 Community Probation Service area offices and 143 service sites, which include service centers, reporting centers and periodic detention centers; eight Psychological Service offices; 14 special treatment units; and a head office.
Maori and Corrections
Maori are disproportionately represented in the correctional population. They comprise 53 percent of all offenders serving custodial sentences, 48 percent of all offenders serving community-based sentences, 59 percent of all female inmates and 51 percent of all male inmates. (6,7)
There has been little research that adequately explains the causes of this disproportionate offending rate. Moana Jackson, (8) a well-respected and influential lawyer, asserts that Maori offenders should be viewed differently from non-Maori offenders because there are cultural forces and particular influences involved that are unique to being Maori. Jackson refers to the devastating effects of colonization and the bias of systemic responses, such as police bias and judicial sentencing trends, which increase the likelihood of Maori entering the criminal justice system.
Since its separation from the other justice agencies in 1995, the Department of Corrections has been committed to reducing recidivism and sees partnership with Maori as essential in achieving this goal.
To increase organizational capability to become more responsive to the needs of Maori and to support the goal of reducing recidivism by Maori, the Department of Corrections developed a number of strategies, as outlined below:
Treaty of Waitangi Policy Statement and Implementation Plan. …