Urgent need for tikanga Māori prisoner release support

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

Reintegration services are key to keeping Māori out of jail, according to a spread of people Te Ao with Moana spoke with recently.

On the heels of the recently released Department of Corrections Strategy to reduce Māori imprisonment rates, a call is being made to boost reintegration support.

Within a year, just over a fifth of Māori who are released from prison under parole are sent back for breaches of their conditions.

Wiremu Workman, who has been out of prison for just over a month now, has become an online sensation for providing simple tips to released inmates as he says it is often the simple things that trip people up and send them back inside.

His father, long time justice reform advocate, Sir Kim Workman agrees and says often the respect is not shown to those recently released and it can be difficult to navigate the outside world.

He says former inmates should be seen for their potential and not their past crime.

“What has happened over the last 30 or 40 years is that bureaucracies have co-opted Māori values and tikanga Māori and integrated them into western models of reintegration. All the evidence shows that’s a waste of time, it doesn’t work, so what we need to do is develop a tikanga Māori justice model and that hasn’t happened.”

Te Ikaroa Rangatahi Services kaitiaki tangata Harry Sela says in some instances reintegration officers are only given days before a prisoner is up before a parole board to try and help them find accommodation and work.

“A lot of our people are still incarcerated because their reintegration needs haven’t been met. It’s sad to say a lot of our people need that support and, unfortunately, there’s not that many of us that are out there to do the mahi,” he says.