Ex Māori inmate advocates for prison system change

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A former Tongariro prison inmate is advocating for change in the prison system to ensure tikanga Māori for rehabilitation and re-integration of prisoners on release, is properly practised.  Aperahama Anihana claims that tikanga Māori was not being upheld when he was in the prison's Māori unit.

Anihana says there's a unified call for Māori tikanga to be implemented in Māori prison units.

"The local people should facilitate the programmes. Don't give it to Pākeha and non-Māori to tell us what to do."

Just Speak founder Kim Workman says, "It has tried to meld the tikanga Māori into western models of clinical psychology and that hasn't worked for 20 years."

130 Māori prisoner rehabilitation workers, ex-inmates and whānau gathered at Whiti Te Rā forum to discuss the transformative change in criminal justice, including Anihana who was released in February, after serving an 11-month sentence at Tongariro prison.

"The difficulty is there are no male and female elders to nurture them, no encouragement from the local people. Regarding Te Waharoa part 1, Te Waharoa part 2, Te Mauri Tū Pai rehabilitation programmes. Although there were 60 men in the unit, only 20 men could do it," said Anihana. 

There are more than 10,000 prisoners and over 50 percent of them are Māori. The underpinning aim of the forum is to reduce those stats.

Mahi Tahi Akoranga trustee, Kingi Porima says, "We are fed up by Pākehā regulations. Our goal is to bring that down."

Anihana has formed Te Orokohanga Trust with the goal of establishing a tikanga Māori rehabilitation unit for released prisoners.