A justice system that is genuinely safe and effective can only be delivered if all Government agencies work in concert with all New Zealanders, moving together and being smarter in our approach to justice, says Chester Borrows, chair of Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group.
The Government has today released its initial response to the final report from Te Uepū, Turuki! Turuki! Transforming our Criminal Justice System, which lays out a pathway toward justice reform. ‘Turuki!’ is the traditional call for the crew of a waka to work together and create forward motion with urgency
“Far too many New Zealanders – whether they are people who have been harmed, people who have harmed others, and their families – suffer continual pain from a justice system currently ill-equipped to heal our people and our communities,” says Mr Borrows.
“New Zealanders have told us we can’t wait any longer for meaningful change. We can’t continue the same approach and expect better outcomes from a system that is failing generations of Māori, fails to respect victims’ needs, address the drivers of crime or adequately rehabilitate people.
“The need for change is urgent and it must be bold. Decades of incremental change has not delivered the system NZ needs.
“New Zealanders shouldn’t accept that 10,000 people are imprisoned, making us one of the most incarcerated nations in the world per head of population. We shouldn’t accept that more than 60 percent of people reoffend within two years of leaving prison. And we shouldn’t accept that more than half the prison population are Māori when they make up 15 percent of the general population.
“Over the past 30 years the direction has been towards longer sentences and punitive approaches that satisfy retributive instincts rather than healing our communities. Decades of talking tough on crime has only delivered more expensive prisons and entrenched divisions in our communities across generations.
“Frankly, the tough talking hasn’t worked and the rhetoric around law and order has meant public perception of crime has been guided more by emotion than by facts.
“Healing and restoration must be the aim of our justice system. People who are harmed will be heard, understood, and supported to recover; People who cause harm will be held accountable and supported to take responsibility.
“Significant up-front investment will be required to address risk factors associated with violence and other offending, build up workforce and community capacity and capability to effectively prevent and respond to harm, and build community habilitation centres.
“However, this investment will pay off in the medium to longer term with fewer people needing to be imprisoned at more than $100,000 per year per prisoner. Our people will be safer as reoffending rates reduce and communities will be empowered to lead solutions from the ground up.
“We have a generational opportunity to transform the justice system, to make it safer and more effective for all New Zealanders. We must work together with purpose and vigour, establish momentum and heed the call ‘Turuki! Turuki!’,” says Chester Borrows.
Key recommendations in Turuki! Turuki!:
• The establishment of a cross-party parliamentary accord for transformative justice
• Transfer power and resources to Māori communities so they can design and develop Māori-led responses to offending.
• Prioritise investment in community-led transformative justice
• Everyone has access to an independent person who can guide and advocate for them for as long as needed.
• Transfer resources and decision-making powers to communities.
• Challenge racism with more diverse recruitment and more effective training in the justice system, as well as school programmes, media campaigns, and law changes.
• Improve access to culturally informed trauma recovery and mental health services
• Strengthen regulation of alcohol, legalise and regulate personal use of cannabis, and consider that for all drugs
• Significantly increase investment in rehabilitation programmes
• Gradually replace most prisons with community-based ‘habilitation centres’
• Criminal investigation and court procedures must be redesigned.