Prison reform group spreads its branches

updated By Tema Hemi

A prison reform group has opened two new branches in Northland and Auckland with a focus on te reo and tikanga programmes to rehabilitate inmates.  The branches have been established as part of the Sir Peter Williams QC Penal Reform League. 

The failure to repeal the Three Strikes law is disappointing for Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams. 

Phillips-Willams says, "if that is the position it's very disappointing.  But on the other hand, I understand that the deputy prime minister is looking at a whole package approach so let's get details on this package approach and whether the three strikes law is a part of that." 

A major campaigner for prisoners' rights, Phillips-Williams and her late husband formed the league which was renamed the Sir Peter Williams QC Penal Reform League as a legacy for Sir Peter after he passed away in 2015.

"He did all this wonderful hard work with the league."

The league held the Contemporary Issues and Justice Conference during the weekend, discussing issues from restorative justice to bringing down the prison population. 

Echo Haronga, a lawyer and representative speaker on behalf of the league says, "It was a program where low-level family violence offenders, mainly Māori, were diverted from the courts system." 

They say whānau intervention is proving to be successful in some cases.

Haronga says, "During the time that I was involved in the program where that whānau felt empowered."

New Zealand sits within the top five of OECD countries for imprisonment rates and per 100,000 residents 220 of those are incarcerated in New Zealand.

In final Phillips-Williams says, "the system is broken. Well, it's been broken for a long time."

Both Kelvin Davis and Andrew Little are to attend the High-Level Justice Summit in August to discuss issues around a review of the justice system.