Waitangi Tribunal grants urgent application on Māori offending & high recidivist rates

By Harata Brown

The Waitangi Tribunal has granted an urgent application regarding Māori offending and high recidivist rates.  The decision comes after head claimant Tom Hemopo said that Corrections Hearings are for all Māori.

Hemopo says, "There is imminent and perhaps irreversible prejudice.  I suppose what I am saying is that this is not a Tom Hemopo claim.  This is an all us Māori claim."

The Waitangi Tribunal claim is headed by retired probation officer, Hemopo, on behalf of his iwi.  It alleges that the Crown has failed to reduce the number of Māori in prison and high reoffending rates.

"It's simple.  I want Corrections to start using their budget to target and try to reduce Māori reoffending,” explains Hemopo.

Half of all women and men in prisons are Māori.  Claimants say a 2009 Corrections report found that five years after release from prison, 77% of Māori offenders were reconvicted and 58% were back in prison.

The co-leader of the Māori Party, Marama Fox believes that although statistics for Māori youth offenders have reduced, the Corrections system is still the same.

“If recommendations by the Tribunal are made, we, as members of the government, can provide the right Corrections structures for all," says Fox.

The claim will be heard in mid-2016.  It will seek the Tribunal's findings on whether this failure is a breach of the Treaty.