[QODLink]
101 East

Locked Up Warriors

Why does New Zealand have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world?

Last updated: 08 Nov 2013 09:18
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

New Zealand ranks as one of the world's most peaceful countries in the Global Peace Index every year. Yet despite a strong reputation for social justice and equality, the South Pacific nation has the second highest rate of imprisonment rates in the western world.

In the past two decades, the jail population has doubled. One international study examining law and order across western nations attributes it to a "tough on crime" approach by New Zealand's political parties since the 1980's, even though crime rates are low.

Today each prisoner costs on average $94,000 to lock up and the current government has described New Zealand's prison problem as a moral and fiscal failure.

Making sure the punishment fits the crime is a widely debated subject in New Zealand but what is undeniable is the gross overrepresentation of minorities in jails.

Connect with 101 East

One in two prisoners is indigenous Maori even though they only account for just 15 percent of the population. Maori are overrepresented in all sectors of the criminal justice system due to soaring rates of child poverty, school dropout, unemployment and family breakdown within indigenous communities.

Many say going to prison has become normalised in Maori society because every child has a relative who is locked up. They also claim that government agencies are failing the children of Maori prisoners, leaving them vulnerable to becoming a new generation of offenders.

Gang affiliations also play their part, providing surrogate families to disenfranchised youth. Since the 1960's, young Maori have joined the ranks of patched gangs like the Mongrel Mob and Black Power who were modelled on US bikie gangs like the Hells Angels.

Over the decades the gangs have been involved in violent crime, drug trafficking and brutal gang rapes. Both the Mongrel Mob and Black Power retain a strong presence across the country but many Maori youth are also forming their own smaller American-style street gangs.

Recently, the New Zealand prison system has introduced cultural units and innovative programmes that try to connect Maori with their families instead of the gangs and to encourage prisoners to get back in touch with their cultural ancestry by learning traditions like the Haka, a famous warrior dance.

But only half of the men in these units speak with their family and reestablishing that bond is not an easy task.

Maori leaders who have seen these programmes at work say they have little effect unless they connect inmates with community projects on the outside.

New Zealand's indigenous population is also overrepresented in reoffending rates. With half of the prisoners returning to jail within two years of their release, the government has introduced more education and addiction programmes in jail.

101 East gains rare access inside New Zealand's prisons and criminal underworld to investigate the cost of the country's harsh criminal justice system. Why does this peaceful South Pacific nation have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the western world?

What can be done to stop the high rates of Maori incarceration in New Zealand? @AJ101East #Lockedupwarriors

101 East airs each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630.  

Watch more 101 East  

602

Source:
Al Jazeera
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Chinese scientists are designing a particle-smashing collider so massive it could encircle a city.
Critics say the government is going full-steam ahead on economic recovery at the expense of human rights.
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
join our mailing list