The horror of New Zealand’s racist private prison system



The terrible perspective Jarrod Gilbert gives our appalling incarceration rates highlights the naked racism of our justice system…

Jarrod Gilbert: Maori incarceration rates are an issue for us all

That New Zealand is a highly imprisoned country is pretty widely known – but even those who know the numbers can be excused some confusion. For the vast majority of people – both inside and outside the country – the imprisonment rate seems incongruous with New Zealand’s image. Are we really so dangerous and riddled with crime that our imprisonment rates must be 34 per cent higher than Australia, 39 per cent higher than the UK, and 73 per cent higher than Canada? Is New Zealand really that rough and lawless?

Political one-upmanship between National and Labour, increasing sentence lengths, and greater difficulty in gaining parole can help explain our growing prison numbers. But without question, any analysis will look naked if it fails to address the moa in the room.

Fifty per cent of the prison population is Maori. It’s a fact regularly cited in official documents, and from time to time it garners attention in the media. Given they make up 15 per cent of the population, it’s immediately clear that Maori incarceration is highly disproportionate, but it’s not until the numbers are given a greater examination that a more accurate perspective emerges.

With an overall population of 4.6 million and a prison muster of 9400, New Zealand has 204 prisoners per 100,000 people. It’s this ratio that’s used to compare incarceration rates around the world, but it’s the internal comparison, between Maori and non-Maori that is more interesting, and more troubling, for New Zealand.

If Maori were imprisoned at the same rate as non-Maori, then the combined total prison population would reduce from 9400 to fewer than 4900. In this scenario, the country has no prison crisis and we’re closing rather than building prisons. New Zealand’s imprisonment ratio drops from 204 to 105 and we slide from being 7th in the OECD to 20th, smugly behind Australia, the UK and Canada. In other words, if Maori crime and conviction rates are the same as non-Maori, the effect is utterly transformative.

Looking at the data in this way, the impact Maori have on New Zealand’s overall incarceration rate becomes clearer and more concerning. That this impact stems from within just 15 per cent of the population hints at the significance of the problem, which further analysis of the data plays out.

The Maori imprisonment ratio works out to 609 per 100,000, meaning Maori are nearly six times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Maori. If the entire population were to be imprisoned at the same rate as Maori, New Zealand’s prison muster would skyrocket toward 30,000. The numbers seem dystopian, yet they very much reflect the realities of many Maori families and neighbourhoods.

…this is apartheid era bigotry. We are so bloody casual in this country we don’t ever seem to trip over the truth even when it hits us in the face. It is inexcusably racist that our justice system has produced such a cultural massacre within the poorest communities.

This inexcusable fact never pierces the world of Mike Hosking or Paul Henry and journalists are too busy chasing clickbait headlines to allow the public to reflect on the counter productive and racist system of our prisons.

We now have private corporations running our largest prison at Wiri. Over 900 beds, and the Government pays for those beds whether they are full or not.

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So there is always a thirst for imprisonment, especially as ACC is a 30% shareholder in the Private Public Partnership that built Wiri.

Now we have prisoners being released after serving their full terms inside prison with no rehabilitation whatsoever. Did we really understand what the ramifications were back in the early 2000’s when Labour and National duelled for who could be harder on crime? Changing the Parole rules were a dreadful social policy blunder.

Prisoners who calmed down and attempted rehabilitation could be released sooner from prison after serving a certain percentage of the sentence. This was altered dramatically and those prisoners who didn’t admit guilt couldn’t get rehabilitation services and so were disqualified for parole and those prisoners who refused to work for dollars a week were also eliminated for parole.

The result is a tsunami of prisoners being released who have served huge times inside prison, longer than we’ve ever had historically, who have had no counselling or therapy whatsoever.

And the States response to this clusterfuck that spite and fear and anger spawned? Why, they simply apply now to lock the prisoner up indefinitely even after the prisoner has served their full sentence.

Corrections know full well that these prisoners who have been locked up longer than any other generation of prisoners are deeply damaged and fear of how extreme their failure to actually do anything other than produce more damaged human beings has created a department focused on indefinite incarceration.

Serco, our Private Prison operator, must be licking their lips in anticipation about indefinite incarceration.

We can’t pretend to be blind any longer .



      • The evidence shows that Maori break the law more than non-Maori. That’s not me being racist. It’s just a statement of fact.

        If you disagree with that, please post a list of imprisoned Maori you think have been improperly convicted.

        Possible racism within the police is irrelevant because they can only put cases before the court. In order to account for current incarceration rates, the judicial system would need to be massively racist too. I just don’t see it.

        It’s time Maori took a hard look at themselves and changed their poor performance in education and employment. If they resolved these two issues, I’m confident the crime statistics would improve too. They need to stop wallowing in victimhood and ensure their kids attend school and get a decent education.

        • Hit the nail on the head there Andrew – it’s a causation vs correlation argument.
          Are there more Maori in jail because of the factors Martyn has noted, or are there more Maori in jail because more Maori commit crime.
          That throws the argument open to what needs to be put in place to address the root causes of Maori crime – broken homes, non-engagement with education system, and other bodies of work that need to focus on breaking these cycles.

          But it’s hard to argue that Maori shouldn’t be locked up to reduce our incarceration rates if it is – and disclaimer here I haven’t done any statistical analysis – Maori committing jail worthy offences.

        • The evidence doesn’t show that. It just shows Maori get convicted more than non-Maori.

          EuroNZ get let off a lot of stuff that Maori wouldn’t. Stuff around alcohol which is seen as “hijinks” or “good kids making a mistake”. You can bet your bottom dollar if the kids causing trouble with alcohol in central Wellington were Maori kids rather than white university kids then they’d have been rounded up for disorderly conduct at the first sign of problems.

  1. Dr John Coleman, a superb researcher (in my opinion) set out the goals of the NWO. Under the leadership of jonkey, these goals are being executed perfectly.
    If you research what is happening to the indigenous worldwide, it’s a repeated pattern. End result is hatred, discontent, imbalance, violence and destruction of national identity and pride. Good news is that we are catching up with the ploys and can speak up very loudly.
    Our judicial system pays homage to The Bar, City of London institution. This, like the governance in NZ, needs a clean up, clear out, and remaining lawyers/judges retrained to serve the people.
    Good governance should lessen the need for incarceration not increase it.

  2. what a load of rubbish speaking from experience yes the NZ police can be racist and yes so is the justice system

  3. Andrew your comments are racist and typical of the rubbish we continually hear in our country tell me Andrew why do most indigenous people share the same negative statistics in all facets of life. Your the one that’s needs to get educated and learn about our countries true history and why we are how we are today. NZ was founded on racist legislation Andrew I suggest you do some homework before you make such stupid and uninformed comments.

    • Andrew is correct. The simple fact is they commit more crimes per head of population than non-Maori. If they didn’t commit a crime they wouldn’t be incarcerated.

  4. Well actually racism in the police does lead to higher conviction rates for those targeted. Google ‘criming while white’. It means you are more likely to get charged in the first place if you aren’t white. If you aren’t charged you don’t get convicted – or jailed. Also the cyp report showed how even the state can’t manage to do any better for kids who are taken from problem homes and has become a conduit for jail – again disproportionately Maori. No problem here eh.

    • Not only are Maori more likely to get charged they are more likely to be apprehended. To the person hiding behind ‘THE TRUTH’ why do so many indigenous people share the same negative statistics. I suspect your answer would be because they commit more crimes per head of population than others but what is the underlying reason for this ? why has this and is this happening to indigenous peoples ( high incarceration rates) this is what we as a country need to think about before we start building more prisons and becoming a little USA.

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