Reducing Re-offending Among Maori
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“Me rapu tonu, me wewete mārire i ngā kōpaki, kia kitea ai te kai o roto.”
“We must search continuously, unwrapping the covering to reveal what’s inside.”
In 2016, I launched the Department of Corrections’ Change lives Shape Futures Strategic Plan, which reinforced our goal to reduce re-offending. Central to achieving this commitment is reducing the level of re-offending among Māori.
Corrections’ official te reo Māori name, Te Ara Poutama Aotearoa, reflects our efforts to change the lives of offenders, reminding us that "though the journey has many challenges, with timely support and guidance at crucial times, attaining the goal of an offence-free lifestyle can become a reality". As with the te reo phrase above Ara Poutama Aoteraroa reinforces that we must continuously seek out new ideas that can help offenders turn their lives around, so they can be back with their families and communities where they should be.
Māori make up 15.8% of the population in New Zealand but around half of the offender population. With a rising prison population already at 10,000 people, it is in all our interests to bring this number down. To do this, we need to focus on the areas where this rise is most acute - people on remand and those serving longer sentences. All these are areas with a higher proportion of Māori offenders and making progress with these offenders will significantly improve our overall progress – to succeed overall, we must succeed with Māori offenders.
Last year the Waitangi Tribunal heard a claim against the department in regard to its efforts to reduce re-offending by Māori. We await the Tribunal's report as it will add significantly to the plans that the department has already in place.
Our call to action is clear. We must ensure that when people are sentenced they receive the timely support and targeted interventions necessary to prevent them re-offending.
In fact, this goal is right in line with the new Justice Sector strategy to improve outcomes for Māori. Together with Police and the Ministry of Justice we have set a target to reduce Māori re-offending by 25% by 2025. The strategy will be supported by $10 million ring-fenced from the Justice Sector Fund and a joint bid for an innovative services model based on Nga Hau E Wha National Marae. This strategy is still in development but it offers our best shot yet at success because it harnesses our sector’s collective strength.
More people in our services identify as Māori than any other ethnic group, therefore everything we do is designed to help Māori succeed. From the people we recruit, to the programmes we provide and the facilities and technology we use, everything we do has a link to reducing re-offending among Māori.
Turning lives around takes time and a combined effort. We must work closely with iwi and the community, as well as our colleagues in the health, justice and social sectors, who share our commitment to improve outcomes for Māori. On the following pages you can read more about what we are doing now and in the future to reduce re-offending among Māori. And it is to the future that we must look, because this is not something we can achieve overnight. The underlying issues that see too many Māori in prison have taken generations to ferment. It could take another generation to unpick some of these and see long-term progress for those families most in need.
Together, we can change lives and shape futures.