Implementing tikanga Māori rehabilitation across all prisons

By Raniera Harrison

Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis is currently meeting with Northern iwi leaders to find solutions to the Māori prison population problem.

This comes on the back of only five of the countries 18 prisons offer Māori-focussed rehabilitation programmes for inmates, despite Māori over-representation in national incarceration rates.

Not the first of many conversations the Corrections Minister has been privy to - he's been looking for community input on how to improve Māori rehabilitation programmes in prisons.

"How can we adopt a collaborative approach to support our relations currently incarcerated? How can we strengthen the rehabilitation programmes?" says the MP for Te Tai Tokerau and Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis - who this week has been travelling his electorate speaking with iwi leaders to find solutions to the problem.

Only five out of the country's 18 prisons offer Te Tirohanga, a tikanga Māori rehabilitation course tailored specifically for Māori inmates.

"Māori rehabilitation programmes will be built upon in jails, however, I want to stop Māori from going to prison in the first place. However [sic] for those already incarcerated, there is an intention to give more kaupapa Māori," says Davis.

Corrections spends just under $200 million per annum on rehabilitation, and Davis says iwi will have an integral role in deciding its future.

"That's the price of what this is all costing. It's huge. I would prefer more preventative measures to stop incarceration in the first place," adds the Minister.

Māori women make up 63% of all NZ female prisoners but statistics show they have even fewer options than their male counterparts to participate in Māori programmes. Davis says Corrections have been informed changes are on the way.

"They are ready to hear what Northland has to say and to change how they operate. I will support him so his officers are all compliant [with tikanga Māori]," says Davis.

Davis says he will meet amongst other iwi representatives from Ngāti Rangi, who are the mana whenua of the Northland Regional Correctional Facility at Ngāwhā next February to discuss the implementation of tikanga Māori in all prisons nationwide.

"If that's what they want for us to work collaboratively - we will do that to ensure the best outcome for all."

It is still unclear at this stage when the implentation of new tikanga Māori initiatives will be rolled out nationwide.