How can the criminal justice system be more effective?

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group is hearing from communities in Te Tairāwhiti, which panel member Julia Whaipooti says is one of the regions most affected by the criminal justice system.

Panel member Dr. Carwyn Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington.  His research and teaching are focused on legal issues affecting Māori and other indigenous peoples, and he has published widely on these topics. 

Jones says, “People are telling us that somethings not working.  They're not getting what they want from the justice system, it's not doing its job properly.”

Tim Marshall is the CEO at Tauawhi Men’s Centre in Tūranganui a Kiwa, a drop-in centre for men offering social work, non-violence programmes, counselling and advocacy support.  

Marshall says, “A lot of the people that go to prison are in there for relatively minor things but that they've done a number of times, and then they go to prison for a short time if you're in prison for 6 months or so you're not going to get anything much that's rehabilitative”.

The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group are hearing from people who have experienced the criminal justice system, as victims of crime or those who have committed crimes and the groups working within the justice system on a daily basis.

“Quite a number of them have been through the justice system or are still going through that system, including men who have spent half of their lives in prison and so are able to share some of their stories with the panel and hopefully that leads to some real change,” says Marshall.

The group has been appointed to support the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata - Safe and Effective Justice Programme, which the government has established to create a more effective system, and a safer New Zealand.  

The group, which is independent of the government, has been tasked with finding out what people want from the criminal justice system, and to canvas a range of ideas about how it can be improved.

Panel member Julia Amua Whaipooti (Ngāti Porou) is a senior advisor in the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and is the spokesperson for JustSpeak.  She is involved in the Community Law movement as national Māori co-ordinator, lawyer and advocate.  Whaipooti says it's crucial that people from the regions have their say on how to improve the criminal justice system and share their ideas on what will work for them and their families.

“...It's even more important for us as an advisory group to make sure we hearing from whānau in the rohe about what would work for here because we can't have solutions that don't involve the people that are most affected,” says Whaipooti.

Marshall says, “There's a whole context to people that offend and break the law and we need to understand that wider context, and especially in a community like Tairāwhiti that we have and that whānau have had for generations.”

Marshall says the justice system is broken, with men falling through the cracks in court and ending up in jail, and that the solutions lie within the community.

“I suppose our message to government is we need them to support some of that in a long-term sustainable way so that we can make the differences that we're already seeing for some whānau for the long haul,” says Marshall.

The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group will continue their consultation in Tasman/Marlborough on the 10th-11th December and Auckland on the 13-14 December.

Further consultations will take place in the new year with findings being published to inform communities, relevant government agencies and the Minister of Justice. 

Te Uepū would like to hear from as many people as possible, and there are several different options. People can:

- Submit their feedback and ideas online.
- Attend a public drop-in session.
- Make a submission or request a meeting by writing directly to them.

For more information or to make a submission click here.