TODAY |

Miss Rotorua highlights the growing number of Māori women in prison

By the age of 14, Miss Rotorua Evarna Koia was in prison.

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Evarna Koia has turned her life around since being behind bars, but a growing number of young Māori women are being imprisoned. Source: Marae

Addicted to methamphetamine, Ms Koia was convicted of stealing a motor vehicle and was sent to youth prison.

“When I went to women’s prison I was actually convicted of the same thing,” Ms Koia told Marae.

These two convictions, the second at 18, were closely connected to her drug addiction, she believes.

“I was just in this cycle of crime, of offending.”

Ms Koia is just one of many young Māori women who are or have spent time in prison.

According to the latest statistics, Māori women are the most incarcerated group of indigenous women in the world and the numbers are climbing.

Of the total women’s prison population in New Zealand, 62 per cent are Māori. Most of these women are between the ages of 16 and 29.

The reasons behind the large number of young Māori women ending up in prison is complex, but one that shouldn’t be accepted but understood, says professor of indigenous studies at the University of Auckland Tracey McIntosh.

“These are not natural statistics. We have to understand them more fully and we have to be much more responsive and we must be more culturally informed and have active solutions for those issues.”

Marae reporter Shilo Kino took and in-depth look into the issue as she spoke to women about their experiences in prison.

Watch the full story above.