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Government releases initial response to criminal justice system reform report

12 December 2019

The Government has released its initial response to the final report from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, Turuki! Turuki! Transforming our Criminal Justice System, which lays out a pathway toward justice reform.

The Advisory Group published He Waka Roimata on 9 June 2019.

Turuki! Turuki! - which is the traditional call for the crew of a waka to work together and create forward motion with urgency - makes a number of key recommendations:

The response recommendations fall under three headings: Commit, Empower, Transform.

Commit
  • The establishment of a cross-party parliamentary accord for transformative justice.
  • Establishment of a Mana Ōrite (equal power) governance model under which Māori and Crown agencies share in justice sector decision-making.
  • Transfer power and resources to Māori communities so they can design and develop Māori-led responses to offending.
  • Make tikanga Māori and te ao Māori values central to the operation of the justice system.
  • Prioritise investment in community-led transformative justice.
  • Adoption of a common vision and common values by the Government, statutory purposes and governance for the whole justice sector and alignment of justice statutes accordingly.
  • Improvement of coordination and information sharing among government agencies and implementation of whole-of-government responsibility for justice sector outcomes.
Empower
  • Everyone who is harmed by criminal offending has access to an independent person who can guide and advocate for them during their contact with the justice system and other services for as long as needed. Better access to a wider range of therapeutic services and more financial support for victims, families and whānau. Strengthening of victims' rights, including rights to have input into criminal justice decisions and rights to privacy.
  • Streamlining protection order and name suppression processes, changes to courtroom layout, and review of reparations.
  • Transfer resources and decision-making powers to communities.
  • Together we address poverty and social deprivation, increase support for parents and families, and challenge attitudes and behaviour that support family violence.
Transform
  • Challenge racism within the justice system 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, and adoption of trauma-informed approaches throughout the justice system, including in all training, policies and practices.
  • Strengthen regulation of alcohol, legalise and regulate personal use of cannabis, and consider that for all drugs. Treat personal drug use as a health issue with more funding towards prevention, education and treatment.
  • Significantly increase investment in rehabilitation programmes. Greatly expanded access to rehabilitation opportunities for all prisoners including those on remand and serving short sentences.
  • Gradually replace most prisons with community-based ‘habilitation centres’.
  • Strengthening 'wrap-around' reintegration services that meet basic needs and provide ongoing rehabilitation support for prisoners returning to the community.
  • Redesign of criminal investigation and court procedures to make them consistent with transformative justice values and principles. Ensuring everyone is treated fairly and equitably, with humanity, dignity, respect and compassion; those who cause harm are accountable; and restoration of mana to all is supported.
  • Interim reforms would include reviewing youth, specialist and therapeutic courts and applying learning across the court systemm, reviewing laws and guidelines for sentencing, the pre-trial period (whether in custody or on bail) and post-release reintegration (parole), to ensure consistency with our values and principles, strengthening and increasing access to alternative justice processes. "These changes will lead to a positive and fair justice system which prevents further harm wherever possible, restores mana where harm occurs, and ensures that all New Zealanders who come into contact with the system are affected positively."

“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," Advisory Group Chair Chester Borrows says. "We shouldn’t accept that more than 60% 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% 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.

Last updated on the 12th December 2019