Maori offending

Stuff reports:

The prison system has achieved little in lowering the rate of offending and a century of appalling crime statistics shows no sign of abating, according to an iwi justice advocate.

That is because generally the role of the prison system is to protect the community, not lower offending. Lowering offending is important, but that involves drug and alcohol counselling, education, rehabilitation programmes and the like. Some of that can be done through prisons, but again the primary role of prisons is to keep the community safe.

A joint police and iwi justice programme in Wellington that aims to reduce Maori crime statistics was presented to the Maori King Tuheitia and his pan-tribal council Tekau-maa-rua in Ngaruawahia yesterday.

Chair of the iwi justice panel at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt, Neville Baker, said the current system had failed Maori for decades and the systems needed to change.

“Maori have been incarcerated for 100 years and we are getting worse so why would we want to continue with the prison system,” said Baker.

It’s great to see a focus on reducing offending. I would point out that the trend is actually positive. The Herald reported last year:

A progress report on the Government’s crime prevention programme shows Maori youth offending down by 32 per cent over three years.

The Drivers of Crime programme, launched in December 2009, brings together crime prevention work of the justice and social sector.

The latest report shows offending rates for Maori youth between 2008 and 2012 dropped 32 per cent.

Youth offending is probably the most important to target.

There has also been a small decrease in the number of Maori in prison – a 3.6% reduction from March 2011 (4,483) to to March 2014 (4,320).

Still a huge amount more to be done, but the solutions are not as simple as just saying less prison. If an offender’s crimes are serious enough or repetitive enough, the protecting the community comes first.

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