Ex-prisoners' reintegration project wins funding injection

By Stefan Dimitrof

A project aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of Māori reintegrating into society after jail terms has just received a substantial financial boost from the Health Research Council.

Dr Paula King (Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Waikato Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto) said the Eru Pōmare Māori Health Research Unit had been granted $2 million to respond “to a vision of a society that prevents harm and addresses the cause of these harms and promotes wellbeing for whānau and communities".

King told Te Ao Tapatahi the legacy of colonisation, colonialism and racism is why Māori have been incarcerated on a mass scale.

“There are approximately 7000 people in prisons across the country and over half of them are Māori.”

King said, as tangata whenua, Māori had the right to monitor and address the adverse impacts on prisoners jailed by the state.

'Re-entry is a critical intervention point'

“When focusing on community re-entry, which is the period that covers release from incarceration and the days, weeks, months and years following that is a critical intervention point to address the health and wellbeing of incarceration for Māori.”

King said people in prisons suffered far worse health outcomes than the general population and released persons had a higher rate of mortality than the general population, and even more so for people released from prison in the first month.

“This does highlight that community re-entry is a critical intervention point. What we don’t know is the solutions that are going to address that.”

King said they needed to understand the effects of incarceration more but thought that finding the solution was desperately needed to drive positive change.