NZ needs 'by-Māori, for-Māori, to-Māori approach' to prisons, says MP Rawiri Waititi

New Zealand needs a "by-Māori, for-Māori, to-Māori approach to dealing with our whānau in prisons", says the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi, who has called for a ministerial inquiry into the treatment of inmates. 

Rawiri Waititi

"What we want to do is fast track the Corrections and the justice facilities to ensure our people are treated humanely," Rawiri said.

"Fifty per cent of the male prison population is Māori, 64 per cent of female prison population is Māori. We have no choice but to advocate for our whānau who are in there."

This morning, RNZ reported a district court judge ruled some of the treatment of prisoners at Auckland Women's Prisoner was "excessive, degrading and fundamentally inhumane", in regards to being made to lie on the floor before getting food and making inmates show the exchange of each piece of clothing to officers "an unnecessary invasion of privacy and an affront to dignity".

It came after an RNZ investigation in November last year where an asthmatic woman was reportedly pepper sprayed and was forced to show her used sanitary products to male guards.

As part of a ministerial inquiry, Waititi said he wants Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to commit to change and ensure he was speeding up Hōkai Rangi (Correction’s new strategic direction) and any Māori kaupapa that helped with rehabilitation. 

"We must look at ultimately a by-Māori, for-Māori, to-Māori approach to dealing with our whānau in prisons."

In response to the comments on Hōkai Rangi, Davis said it will take "a considerable amount of time and effort to turn around a whole operating system".

"There will be bumps in the road. That’s not going to stop us making the improvements that are necessary.

"Things are changing but it will take time."

On if there needs to be a ministerial inquiry, he said he needed to hear Corrections' side of the story.

"If I think I need to act on it then I will."