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Monday, 11 December 2017 01:08 pm

Prison reform raises hope of 1989 report’s “habilitation” idea

Nov 22nd, 2017 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News

Prominent lawyer Moana Jackson addresses a crowd at Wellington Girls College school hall.

A call to abolish prisons comes off the back of the government’s announcement of a review of the prison population.

Leading Māori lawyer Moana Jackson wants “habilitation centres” to replace prisons.

Jackson calls for “decarceration,” instead of “incarceration” in a justice forum held at Wellington Girls College.

The address, titled“Why Did Māori Never Have Prisons?”, urged New Zealand to look to its past to find a replacement.

He says habilitation centres floated in the 1989 Roper Report on Prisons could provide a replacement.

“If you have a values base which acknowledges that harm will be done, that people will be hurt, but the way to resolving and healing that hurt is to seek to restore the relationship, then you have a justice system, if you like, which sees no need for prisons.”

Jackson says the move to abolish prisons is happening globally, particularly in Scandinavia, where these countries are closing prisons.

“Where New Zealand is now, per capita, per head of population, one of the biggest builders of prisons in the world, other countries are doing the opposite. They’re beginning to close prisons and look in their own history for something different.”

Justice reform group JustSpeak has also put major reforms into its “Briefing to Incoming Ministers,” released earlier this month.

Board member and forum organiser Julia Whaipooti told NewsWire there should be a focus on ensuring people don’t re-enter the justice system.

The organisation supports bail reform, early interventions in the justice system and the treatment of drug offences as health issues to achieve this.

“Prisons, as they stand, statistically act as a university of crime.

“We support evidence-based and experience-based approaches that think beyond three-year cycles.”

Ms Whaipooti encourages politicians to work together to develop a plan, as while there is a lot of evidence around what does and doesn’t work, the issue of law and order is often politicised.

She says she was heartened by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis’s decision to have a review of the system rather than immediately invest in another prison.

“We spend over a billion dollars a year to run our current prisons, we could re-invest that money.

“We spend $108,000 to keep one prisoner in bed for a year knowing that they’re likely to come back, we could invest that money into their whanau and communities so we restore the harm that’s been caused.”

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