As an indigenous Maori I was always going to be interested in what the Maori Party Policy was going to be within the criminal justice sector, and I might say I was pleasantly surprised.
At the top of their policy as a statement it says “We cannot Police and Prison our way out of poverty” a statement that is so true, showing me straight away that a lot of thought has gone into their policy and its not just random words plucked out of nowhere.
Where they come unstuck is where they make statements like “Justice in Aotearoa can only work when Tangata Whenua assert our Tino Rangatiratanga to oversee our own tikanga-based models of restorative justice”, a statement that does not fit in a multi- cultural society.
Establishing a Maori Justice Authority and having 50% of Corrections, Policing and Courts funding allocated to it: I cannot see how this is feasible when only 16.5% of our population is Maori, a statement that most people would think is inappropriate.
Raising the criminal liability age to 16, where it is currently 14: A discussion that has been had many times, and I think a discussion that is never going to get anywhere anytime soon. As tragic as it is we will always have youth that commit criminal offences and the way to deal with that is to get them the help that they need. Should they have a criminal conviction attached to their name for the rest of their life?
Having the clean slate act amended to include custodial sentences, where currently it only applies to non-custodial sentences: I’m the first one to say everyone deserves a second even third chance but when we get to high end custodial sentencing offending there needs to be awareness. The way their policy is written, someone who has been convicted of multiple offences, let’s say against children should have those convictions hidden. For me there has to be culpability.
Overhaul the Misuse of Drugs Act so that drug use is treated as a health issue: Not the only party saying this as the Green Party have said this for many years. I agree drug abuse should not be a punitive issue, only when we are dealing with supply should it become a criminal issue.
Requiring Police officers to wear body cameras: Another good policy that the main parties are not listening to but in today’s day and age I think they are an important part of policing, being used worldwide for many years.
The disestablishment of the Independent Police Conduct Authority and having it replaced with an independent body who has the same investigatory powers as the current IPCA has: on the back of Allan Hall and Teina Pora Something that is needed and the word that sticks out for me is independent. New Zealand is a small country and too many people know too many people so why can’t we have a totally independent investigatory panel who consist of KC’s or the likes from another country.
Expanding rehabilitation and recovery services for people in prison: Something I am very inline with and have advocated for many times and will remain advocating for. I have recently been part of a parole hearing for a client where the parole board really put pressure on corrections for failing to get rehabilitation in the appropriate time frame, so things are changing but we need to keep the pressure on.
Investing in community mental health and addiction services: Also, something that needs addressing a great policy that already exists within all parties but again something that needs far more investment.
Abolish Prisons by 2040, something that I totally agree with, but I cannot see Aotearoa achieving this with in 17 years. The part of this policy I really like is where they talk about incorporating other countries policies like Norway, Denmark who are leading the way in progressive prison policy, and also seeing amazing non reoffending rates as high as 80% where in Aotearoa our reoffending rate is consistently over 70% clearly showing that our system is failing.
The Maori party has some interesting policy and policy that makes good common sense and that is not only focused on maori but all citizens of Aotearoa.
Let’s see if they can achieve some of these if they make up part of our next coalition government who every that may be.
Jackie Foster, CEO, Social Justice Aotearoa