More Māori officers needed for Māori prisoners

By Heeni Brown

The Department of Corrections is calling for more Māori workers in an effort to help reduce the Māori prison population.

Department of Corrections Director Māori Neil Campbell says, "At the end of the day you're dealing with some of New Zealand's most difficult citizens within a confined and contained space, so tension is quite natural in those environments. I like to think Māori are very good at working in areas of tension, very good communicators, very good at dealing with people to people type situations."

Neil Campbell started his career in Corrections as an officer at Paremoremo prison more than 20 years ago. He now sits in the national office as Director Māori and wants more Māori to follow work in the industry.

"I think our tikanga and our processes on Marae and within other environments where you have many people gathered together focussed on a kaupapa, that makes our people really great types of people that we want to have working in our facilities with these really difficult people."

According to Campbell 22% of the 8,000 people employed by Corrections are Māori. But he wants that number to rise and meet the same threshold of Māori prisoners who make up over 50% of the prison population.

"What we then need as part of the rehabilitation is when those people come out of those environments they need to be able to return to a unit or a block where staff are able to support them that rehabilitation and role model many of the values that those programmes and interventions are looking to get across."

Campbell also says all prisons run programmes or initiatives that address the cultural needs or Māori. But there are specialised flagship programmes which are run predominantly in the North Island because of the high Māori prisoner population.

"But all facilities will run some type of programme or intervention that is usually developed and delivered by Māori service providers from outside of the department to the prisoners within those facilities."

The Department has composed a haka called 'Kua Takoto te Manuka' which they hope will entice more Māori to apply for work as a corrections officer.