The overwhelming message from New Zealanders is that regardless of how they come into contact with the justice system, it is failing them and their families and there is a need for transformative and sustained change, according to a new report released today.
The report from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, He Waka Roimata (A Vessel of Tears), provides valuable insights into public attitudes and ideas about New Zealand’s justice system, says Te Uepū’s Chair Chester Borrows.
“Our advisory group was set up by the Justice Minister to conduct an honest and constructive conversation with New Zealanders on how we can deliver safer and more effective justice,” says Chester Borrows.
“We listened to thousands of New Zealanders from all over the country at our public events, through our website and social media, and at events we attended. We heard from interested members of the public, as well as those who have been victimised, prosecuted for offending or who offer services to communities that have been affected.
“The overwhelming impression we got from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief. Far too many New Zealanders feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect - and in many cases has caused more harm.
“We heard that the current system simply isn’t delivering effective justice, and a 60 per cent reoffending rate within two years of a person leaving prison is some evidence of its ineffectiveness.
“We’re hearing that many victims are left with a sense that justice has not been done. People are feeling let down at their most vulnerable time.
“And for Māori the legacy of colonisation comes in many forms, many of them with tragic consequences, as is the case in all colonised countries where indigenous peoples are over-represented in prison. This legacy is a gross unfairness and something we should not tolerate in New Zealand.
“There is widespread recognition that at every point in their lives, and over generations, Māori experience disadvantage that increases the risk they will come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“We’re convinced from what we’ve heard that solutions already exist and that people from all sectors of society want to be actively engaged in building a justice system that all people can be collectively proud of.
“We’re now developing a response to the themes and ideas raised by the public, which we will provide later this year,” says Chester Borrows.
Te Uepū’s report complements ongoing work by the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice Programme and the recent Victims Issues Workshop and Hui Māori: Ināia Tonu Nei Safe and Effective Justice forum.