April 01, 2020
Hannah Riley

Criminal justice transformation

Last year our article New Zealand’s criminal justice system fails New Zealanders, shared a few of the many concerning statistics reported by Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata. Turuki, Turuki, a new report from Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata looks to the future and makes recommendations on how we can transform our criminal justice system.

The Turuki, Turuki recommendations are comprehensive and transformative. They not only deal with the current criminal justice issues at the surface level, such as recommending changes to resources and policies, these recommendations also dive into the underlying issues, such as poverty, mental health, power dynamics, and deeply held beliefs in societies. Furthermore, the report recognises that shifting power dynamics will be fundamental in transforming our criminal justice system. This is particularly apparent in recommendation two: By Māori for Māori. The report also dives into the need to shift deeply held beliefs and assumptions in societies, particularly for addressing racism. The report is holistic in its approach, reflecting that the criminal justice system faces many complex and interrelated challenges. Turuki, Turuki highlights that it is important to understand the bigger picture in which these challenges sit, and that transformative change will be required to address the ways in which our systems are broken.

Turuki, Turuki recommendations

1    Political accord
2A    Establish Mana Ōrite
2B    By Māori for Māori
2C    Tikanga and Māori values
3    Commit to long-term investment
4    Whole of Government adoption of common vision and responsibility
5A    Single point of contact for victims
5B    Increase breadth and depth of support services for victims
5C    Changes to justice processes for victims
6    Empower communities
7    Children, families and whānau support
8    Address racism 
9    Trauma recovery and mental health
10    Regulate alcohol and cannabis
11    Community rehabilitation and habilitation centres
12A    Redesign criminal procedures
12B    Sentencing and other transitional reforms

A few of the recommendations: 

  • By Māori for Māori: This recommendation acknowledges that “transformative change will require significant transfer of power and decision-making from the Crown to Māori at national, regional and community levels. It will also require recognition of tikanga Māori values in the operation of the justice and wider social systems”.
  • Children, families and whānau support: That “together we address poverty and social deprivation, increase support for parents and families, and challenge attitudes and behaviour that support family violence.”
  • Address racism: The report states that “racism is endemic throughout our society. Racism can manifest in overt acts of racial violence and abuse; in racist attitudes such as prejudice, stereotyping and profiling in beliefs that western ways of doing things are ‘normal’ or ‘superior’ to those of other cultures, and that others should assimilate or adapt; and in institutional and systemic racism, in which organisations and social systems systematically discriminate against some ethnicities or cultures”.
    During the engagement process, Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata heard from many Māori who “saw the justice system as a tool of colonisation, which operated according to Anglocentric cultural ideas while systematically discriminating against and subjugating Māori”. Other cultures also suffer from cultural bias and discrimination, as well as disabled persons and members of the Rainbow community. As such, it was recommended “that racism and discrimination must be challenged within the justice system and throughout our society, with more diverse recruitment and more effective training which challenges deeply held unconscious racism and bias. School programmes, media campaigns and law changes can all help address violent social norms in wider society”.
  • Rehabilitation: The report recommends “significantly increased investment in rehabilitation programmes and greatly expanded access to rehabilitation opportunities for all prisoners”. It also recommends, “Gradual replacement of most prisons with community-based habilitation centres and strengthening wrap-around reintegration services that meet basic needs and provide ongoing rehabilitation support for people released from prison returning to the community”.

Further details can be found on Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata website.