The model fourth year medical students came up with to summarise their research

Māori perspectives on the justice system

They’re our whānau — a report in the making

Here’s what we found:

  • Almost everyone agreed (90%) that structural racism (such as unconscious and conscious racial bias in police, lawyers, judges), colonisation (the forceful taking of land, language and culture from Māori) and intergenerational trauma (trauma that is transferred through generations) are the reasons there are far more Māori than non-Māori locked in our prisons.
  • Almost everyone thought people in prison should have the right to vote.
  • 76% agreed community-based interventions to prevent and reduce crime should be supported and funded instead of prisons, and 70% support a focus on interventions for taiohi (young people).
  • 65% support the 100-bed mental health facility planned for Waikeria, but 63% also said that prisons are not good places to provide mental health services.

“Effective health services are needed outside of prison. While I understand that prison is at times, the only place a person is able to get help, it also highlights the need for services prior.”

  • More connected communities (1102 participants or 83%)
  • Better mental health services (1042 participants or 79%)
  • Better drug, alcohol and addiction support services (1004 participants or 76%)
  • More jobs and higher wages (954 participants or 72%)
  • Better schooling (933 participants or 70%)

In short, we know the solutions to harm are healthy communities and preventative help, not handcuffs and prison.

The justice system is a tool of colonisation.

Institutional racism results in the state locking up more Māori than non-Māori.

The prison system is a failure.

Māori led community initiatives and policy will stop the violence of this system.

  1. Publish a beautiful and compelling report on Māori views of the justice system;
  2. Build an educational website so we can get this research in front of as many people as possible;
  3. Work with researchers to develop effective messages so that our research shifts the hearts and minds of voters?
  • 78% were female, 20% male, and 0.75% gender diverse, non-binary, or takatāpui
  • As well as being Māori, 47% also had Pākehā lineage, and 9% Pasifika
  • The majority of participants were aged 40–59 (47%)
  • 93% knew someone who had been to prison, and 62% had a whānau member incarcerated at the time they took the survey.
A word-cloud with names of the iwi of survey participants sized to represent the number of participants who are part of that iwi. Following the three most common iwi listed above are Tainui, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Rawara, Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi.
  • We will take your views with us to Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata — the Safe and Effective Justice Summit in Porirua next week. We will urge those in power to put Māori at the forefront of justice debates, and advocate for justice solutions that will work best for Māori.
  • We will organise for the University of Otago medical students to present the full ‘They’re Our Whānau’ report at a public event in Wellington. We will invite the media, policy advisors and politicians.
  • We will review the way media are reporting on crime to find out how these myths are spread. We will use that research to inform best-practice messaging and make sure New Zealanders see accurate stories of our justice system and stop the rhetoric of fear preventing ambitious reform.
  • We will work with JustSpeak to mobilise compassionate New Zealanders to meet with their MPs and discuss the need for Māori-led alternatives to prison. These meetings will tautoko Matua Moana Jackson’s report on Māori and the criminal justice system to be released in November — an update of his 1988 work He Whaipaanga Hou.



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