JustSpeak supports the Waitangi Tribunal report released today recommending the Government to take steps to address the systemic racism in our justice system. Focused on reoffending, the report finds a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi and sets out recommendations to effect meaningful change on this issue.
What may well be the Roper report of our time sets out recommendations based on evidence, research and experience of the justice system.
“This report should be a wake up call, and a call to action to address this breach of the Treaty” says JustSpeak Chair, Julia Whaipooti, who gave evidence at the Waitangi Tribunal.
“Before it has a chance to gather dust and before concrete decisions are made to build more prisons for more of our people, we would like to see action to adopt the recommendations outlined in the report, which together provide a strong framework for the Government to address these issues”.
The recommendations include developing a targeted Māori strategy and setting measurable targets to reduce disproportionate reoffending rates.
The timing of this report could not be more critical with prison numbers reaching 10,000 just a few months ago and the proportion of Māori in prison at the highest level since records began. Despite recorded crime rates in decline for the past 25 years, the prison population has quadrupled, significantly driven by the mass imprisonment of Māori.
We call on the Government to adopt the report’s recommendations and show an intention to address the injustice in our justice system.
Julia Whaipooti says that “this report confirms a bleak picture within our justice system for Māori. But it also sets out a blueprint for change. That is a gift for any Government serious about changing this bleak picture. If we want to substantively address the structural problems in our system then we need to do more than give programmes Māori names and allocate more than relatively small amounts of money without any focused strategy.”
Julia Whaipooti notes that “we’ve seen the intentions from the current Government with their proposed new prison build. Our hope is that these findings and recommendations will help the Government engage with this tough issue, and work hard to change this picture for future generations”.
JustSpeak would like to acknowledge the work of Tom Hemopo and his iwi in bringing this case to the Waitangi Tribunal, and looks forward to working with the Government and across the justice sector to see these recommendations through to fruition.