A better criminal justice system for Aotearoa

Publication Date 
04 August 2017

With record numbers of Māori in prison, and Māori over represented throughout the criminal justice system, it is time to reform criminal justice in Aotearoa.

That was one of the main messages to come from whiti te rā, a kaupapa Māori hui on transforming criminal justice held at Te Papa-i-ouru Marae in Rotorua last month.

Law Commission Adviser Clare Tattersall, who went to the hui, says one of the lessons for the Commission is "nothing about us without us".

"People affected by law reform proposals need to have a say.  People currently or formerly incarcerated, their whānau and communities, as well as those who work in the area, need to be involved in discussions about criminal justice reform."

The hui was hosted by JustSpeak, an organisation that advocates for improvement of the criminal justice system and engages young people in discussions about how to create a more just Aotearoa; and the Mahi Tahi Akoranga Trust, which works with people in prison and their whānau and communities, holding wānanga on tikanga and helping people reintegrate into their communities once they leave prison. 

The hui noted that an important issue for criminal justice reform is the legacy of colonisation and intergenerational trauma. 

It also discussed poverty and homelessness as major causes of crime and, the need to address these issues rather than punishing people for them. It saw well-resourced housing and social support, as well as education, including teaching te reo, tikanga, te Tiriti and history in schools as critical.

Participants established a working group to advocate for law reform and to help build support for Te Ao Māori alternatives that support communities, whānau, hapū and iwi.

The Law Commission hopes to work with this group and with JustSpeak on its criminal justice law reform work.