Dr Rawiri Waretini-Karena gets off 'pipeline to prisons'

By Tamati Tiananga

'I am now an ordinary New Zealand citizen' are the words Dr Rawiri Waretini-Karena wrote in an emotional Facebook post recently.

"I was 18 years old when I walked into the yard. I’d never been to prison before," he says.

" I walked out into the yard and there were 50 men there. I knew 45 of them because they were around me in the social welfare homes, foster homes and boys' homes. That's when I realised there was a pipeline to prisons."

Waretini-Karena has become the first Māori to have his conviction (for murder) annulled. He no longer has any parole condition he has to abide by. After three failed attempts, last month his application for discharge of parole conditions under section 56(1) of the Parole Act 2002 succeeded.

Awarded PhD

 "For me, it was about understanding what accountability looks like. But even after 35 years of being a lifer and having that annulled, what I still recognised is this. When I was a young teenager, scared and confused, there was no one to look to."

In 1987 the 19-year-old Waretini-Karena was sentenced to life for murder. He was released on parole on December 8, 1997. 

"I'm lucky I came out with a plan and I had two deficit legacies that I needed to address and I addressed them. One was the family of the person’s life that I took and the other one was with my own family for being abused for my actions."

After his release, Dr Waretini-Karena went from strength to strength including studying for and gaining his PhD. He has not been convicted of any further offending and has complied fully with the conditions of his parole, which for many years now have involved reporting every forty days, with no rehabilitative component.