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Young kiwis speak out on justice system

May 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

DIANE White is disillusioned with the crime and punishment system so she and a group of other young New Zealanders are doing something about it.

JustSpeak is made up of young lawyers, social workers, advocates and public servants who this week released a report title Maori in the Criminal Justice System.

On Tuesday Maori Affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples launched the report by JustSpeak, which is the youth arm of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

A public forum which is based around the report will be held on Wednesday next week in Wellington and Diane is one of the organisers of the event.

“I attended some of the earlier forums, and was inspired by the fresh, non-talkfest nature of the group and wanted to become more involved,” says Ms White.

The JustSpeak report says, contributing factors which have shaped what it calls the “obstinate relationship” between Maori and the judicial system include:

 Structural inequality and criminal justice system bias towards Maori;
 A higher proportion of Maori experiencing multiple drivers of crime such as poor health, family breakdown and low rates of economic and social participation;
 A youthful Maori population, with more Maori in the typical offending age range.

Their points are backed up by statistics in Recorded Crime Tables released last month by Statistics New Zealand.

The tables state that in 2010 caucasians committed 95,930 total offences and Maori committed 94,970, despite Maori making up only 15% of our population and Caucasians 77%.

In 2011 caucasian crime dropped by 8.4% to 87,881 total offences while Maori crime dropped only 4.3% to 90,885.

While those figures represent a 4.8% decrease in crime overall in 2011, they mean Maori are now the leading offenders in New Zealand.

The National Government’s stated goal is to reduce crime rates and in the last three years they have continued to fall.

Crime fell 3.6% in 2009, 6.7% in 2010 and 4.8% in 2011 according to figures are published by Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

Despite the falls, JustSpeak believe there is a clear disconnection between the government’s approach on one side and evidence and research on the other.

“I think young people can offer a great deal in the area. We are kind of like blank canvases.

“We’re not tired, disillusioned and complacent. We are impatient, innovative and excited, and that’s the kind of energy we need”.

JustSpeak’s forum on Wednesday runs from 6pm to 8pm at St Johns Church on the corner of Willis St and Dixon St.

Labour MP Charles Chauvel, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and others will be guest speakers and the event is free entry and includes free pizza.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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