The number of women in New Zealand prisons is rising exponentially.

A disproportionate percentage of Māori women can be found in this spike that's increasing three times faster than men.

Leading social justice campaigner, Julia Whaipooti of Just Speak says it's a trend this country should be ashamed of.

“Just Speak knows that our fastest growing prison population is our wāhine. And something for us to be thinking about is that the year I was born 3% of our women in prison were Māori and today we are looking at over 60%.”

Latest records show that, of those female prisoners, 55% are Māori, 31% are European, 7% are Pacific Peoples and 7% are other.

To highlight the stark female prison population in comparison to their male counterpart, within the last five years prison population has increased.

The male prison population increased by 19% however for the female prison population it has increased by 56% for the same period.

Whaipooti says prisons are becoming universities of crime.

“Within the last 10 years, legislative changes that have been made have effectively increased our prison population in the face of decreasing crime rates. And that's come about by decision makers legislative and policy decisions which have been very harmful, we know that if people have contact with our prison systems the more likely that they are to come back and re-offend and do so more violently, that doesn't seem very usual, effectively we are creating universities of crime.”

Whaipooti also says more needs to be done stop rising numbers.

“We need our Māori MPs to step up and say that they are not going to do this. They have the power within this government they can't let this happen, otherwise, they choose to imprison the next generation of our children that can't happen on our watch.”

The research also says that female prisoners are negatively impacted by physical violence, sexual abuse and mental health issues.

“This current government with the most Māori in parliament sitting around the table are considering whether to build another university of crime. Waikeria prison on confiscated Māori land building a prison which will house effectively our people and we can afford for that to happen.”

With just over 50% of the prison population being Māori, next month the government will make a decision on whether Waikeria Prison will get the green light to expand and house more prisoners.

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