The prison system is full.

It's an issue that will be discussed at the Justice Summit over the next coming days.

Half of the 10,000-prison muster are Māori and the Justice Minister Andrew Little agrees the stats are like this because of racism.

“I don't think you can rule out that that (racism) is a cause of the massive over-representation of Māori in our prison system.”

Julia Whaipooti is one of the panellists at the summit and says prisons need to change.

“What does a justice system look like that works for all New Zealanders, and that means it has to work for Māori too. That's the stuff we need to be looking at, we need to be honest about.”

It seems Little agrees with the sentiment.

“It is not right that we've had a 30% increase in our prison population in just the last five years - that's not right. That tells you there's something wrong.”

He also says a Māori tikanga-based approach could be the solution,

“It is obvious that when you look at the massive over-representation of Māori, we have to draw on wisdom and expertise and knowledge and mātauranga coming from all quarters, including from Māori themselves.”

Whaipooti agrees.

“This is an exciting time for us to be contributing to the conversation and saying actually, what does it look like for Māori to respond to harm that happens in our communities and our families.”

The solution may lie within Māoridom.