INDEPENDENT NEWS

Maori Men Fare Better Than Maori Women In Prison

Published: Thu 6 Dec 2001 09:55 AM
Study Reveals Maori Men Fare Better Than Maori Women In Prison
For immediate release
5 December 2001
Study Reveals Maori Men Fare Better Than Maori Women In Prison
Maori women are a forgotten group when it comes to addressing underlying issues causing criminal offending and helping prisoners fit back into society, research conducted by Khylee Quince, a lecturer at The University of Auckland Law School has indicated.
Funded by the Canadian government, Ms Quince's research is part of an international comparison of the policies and programmes in place in Canada, Australia and New Zealand to help indigenous women while in prison and later to reintegrate back into their communities.
"The comparison between the three countries is useful as indigenous women throughout these nations have very similar offending patterns, come from similar socio-economic backgrounds and share histories of physical and sexual abuse, as well as dependencies on alcohol and drugs," Ms Quince says.
"We wanted to find out more about the programmes in place to help female prisoners fit back into society, but we were also interested in the facilities available inside the prisons and the support available for women after they've been released," Ms Quince says.
Ms Quince's research in New Zealand indicates that men are better equipped with policies, programmes and facilities aimed at reducing re-offending.
"In my view, penal policy in New Zealand is predicated on a model formulated for a white male prisoner. Females are added on to this model, as are Maori. But issues relating to Maori women are not dealt with through either of those populations, in terms of case management, programming and facilities," Ms Quince says.
"The Department of Corrections is well aware that they have to address Maori offending, both because of the Treaty relationship between Maori and the Crown, and because of the huge over-representation of Maori in criminal offending statistics.
"However, the manner in which they have addressed those issues focuses on Maori male inmates, with little regard for Maori women.
"Maori men at several New Zealand prisons can live in Maori Focus Units which operate under Maori principles and practices with specifically Maori focused programmes, such as Te Reo Maori (Maori language). But there is nothing like this for women, other than some weaving and art and craft programmes.
"Programmes and initiatives that do exist to address issues for Maori women, are often the result of excellent female management at the coal face in the prisons, not because of directions from central government."
Results of the study also suggested the programmes in place to help women enter the workplace are not always effective.
"There are computer and information technology courses available, which is a great idea, but these courses are often more advanced than the women can actually cope with, especially if they've had little education or schooling in their past," Ms Quince says.
"The computer equipment is also outdated and not likely to be found in any workplace today," she says.
The research also indicated there are inadequate facilities for visitors to Mt Eden prison.
"There are no toys for children to play with when they're visiting their mum and nowhere for them to play," Ms Quince says. "There's not even any basic facilities available for families to make and share a cup of tea or food," she says.
"These concerns are fundamental to Maori, who operate within a close whanau network. Inmates feel no sense of pride or dignity when faced with whanau members visiting such dire conditions."
However female inmates said they felt more positive about the psychology-based programmes available to them at Mt Eden Prison.
"The women enjoy programmes about living without violence and they find the practical training available to them useful, such as budgeting and life skills and practical ways to run a house."
Ms Quince's research involved interviews with several female inmates at Mt Eden Prison serving sentences of more than two years. She also interviewed policy analysts and prison personnel involved in formulating and implementing corrections policy and various programmes addressing issues associated with offending and also those which aimed to aid reintegration on release.
The comparison of the individual countries' research is due to be completed by the end of this year when it will be published by Corrections Canada.
ENDS

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