Jail not the answer - iwi advocate

The prison system has achieved little in lowering the rate of Maori offending and a century of appalling Maori crime statistics shows no sign of abating, according to an iwi justice advocate.

A joint police and iwi justice programme in Wellington that aims to reduce Maori crime statistics was presented to the Maori King Tuheitia and his pan-tribal council Tekau-maa-rua in Ngaruawahia yesterday.

Chair of the iwi justice panel at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt, Neville Baker, said the current system had failed Maori for decades and the systems needed to change.

"Maori have been incarcerated for 100 years and we are getting worse so why would we want to continue with the prison system," said Baker.

The programme runs at full capacity and about 200 first-time young and adult offenders have been sent their way with previous offenders included.

Referrals were aged 17 and older, of any ethnicities, had committed crimes that carry a punishment of six months or less and were supported by social workers and local police.

"With good advocacy, good collaboration and good support and understanding, we can break a 100-year pattern because that is what we are looking at here."

The Maori king's son Korotangi Paki took the opportunity to apologise to the tribal leaders for recent offending and a foul-mouthed rant on social media.

"That was very difficult for him and when things are difficult you've got to really dig deep and digging deep means you've got to really make some decisions and some better choices," said Baker.

The police had done offenders a favour when keeping them clear of the judicial system but the cost of pursuing minor offenders through the courts was expensive. The money would be better spent on education and job creation.

"To put people in courts and process them costs about $10,000 per individual. That's where the negative money is being spent. If somebody needs a job, you get him a job. If somebody needs to jack their ideas up, put them on a delayed three-month suspension and say if you don't play the game in three months you will go to court."

Police superintendent Wally Haumaha said first-time Maori offenders needed support so they didn't end up career criminals. "Do we have the right systems to prevent first-time young Maori offenders to be once on the merry-go-round, always on the merry-go-round?"

Waikato Times