Justice system 'getting it really wrong' with its treatment of Māori, says expert

A former lawyer and MP says the justice system is not fair to Māori, after a report released yesterday called the treatment of Māori "racist".

A report - He Waka Roimata - released by Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora, chaired by Chester Borrows, found that New Zealand's criminal justice system has "racism embedded in every part of it" and that victims were being revictimised.

"It's not a fair system and it's not a just justice system," Mr Borrows told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

He says many Māori prisoners get no rehabilitation and no therapy.

The report released by the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group says, "the [justice] system is too focused on punishment and neglects prevention, rehabilitation, reconciliation and repair of the harm done by the crime."

Mr Borrows says, "Over 60 per cent of Māori inside are in high and maximum sized security units where they get no rehabilitation and no therapy and they're the most serious offenders. Then we let them out back onto the street again and what a surprise when they come back in."

Sixty-one per cent of Māori behind bars are re-convicted within two years of release and 43 per cent are back in prison within two years of release the report found.

"There's not enough rehabilitation in our prisons and it doesn't come early enough," Mr Borrows says.

"Frequently we withhold any sort of therapy or programmes until these people are close to parole.  If you're serving a six year prison sentence you might have four years with no support, is that a fair justice system? Is that New Zealand? Because it doesn't sound like it to me.

"It's about time New Zealanders thought about how we treat one another.  People find themselves in the justice system after they've been failed by social welfare, education, health, employment, the economy and it's no wonder that we find those most vulnerable in prison," Mr Borrows says.

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The chairman of Te Uepū pai i te Ora says the findings of a new report are “unsurprising”. Source: Breakfast