Youth voice important for Justice reforms - lawyer

By Talisa Kupenga

Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced the Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group tasked with reforming the "broken justice system". Lawyer and panel member Julia Whaipooti says youth need to be at the forefront of these discussions to ensure outcomes for Māori.

Māori members say "significant" change is needed but to work it must work for Māori.

Group member Tracey McIntosh says "we've had a focus on incarceration, what does a focus on decarceration look like and what are the types of policies and community engagement that's needed to be done for decarceration to become the norm."

McIntosh says future generations need to flourish but under current systems many do not.

Human rights lawyer Julia Whaipooti says rangatahi need to be at the forefront because changes will impact them most.

"We know rangatahi in our youth justice facilities are 70-percent and that's not ok because we know that the conveyor belt that graduate those rangatahi to the adult justice system is quite high. If we're not doing things right for our rangatahi then we're not really being aspirational for our justice system."

Despite making up 15-percent of NZ's population Māori account for 51-percent of the prison population.

Former National Minister and advisory group Chairman Chester Burrows says big decisions to address over representation will be "new and fresh".

"The sorts of things they're going to be looking at you'd expect to consider things like targeting. I guess what we're driving for is a greater understanding as to why that over representation is happening."

A report is expected from the group early next year.