A law academic says New Zealand can no longer ignore the “social fact of shame” Maori experience as a result of many being entangled with crime.
Statistics show Maori are more likely to be arrested and get a prison term and less likely to get home detention or a fine.
They also make up more than 50 percent of New Zealand’s prison population.
Auckland University senior law lecturer Khylee Quince told TV ONE’s Q&A programme it's time for a new way of dealing with crime and punishment.
"It's almost become the elephant in the room now... We don't even really talk about it... But if you're a practicing lawyer in the district court, your clientele are Maori." She said.
Ms Quince says underlying social problems need to be addressed.
“Currently most of the justice system is dealing with the fact of offending rather than the causes of offending”.
She pointed to initiatives already “gaining traction” overseas in Australia, Canada, and North America, which take what is spent on prisons and reinvest it in preventative justice.
Ms Quince says she’s also advocating for a separate justice system to be introduced for Maori in the long term.
“People tend to act more favourably towards people that look like them and speak the same language and so when you translate that into the decisions of judges, of police officers, of people in the system, than that negatively impacts on people that aren’t represented.” She said.