Bias in the Justice System - TV3 Transcript

Published: Mon 20 Aug 2012 12:43 PM
TV3 Think Tank – Series 2
Episode 22
Bias in the Justice System
John Tamihere
01.01.30 The figures tell the story. Maori make up 14% of New Zealand's population, and 53% of the prison population. We are six times more likely to be incarcerated, and 11 times more likely to be held on remand. It is statistically impossible for Maori to offend more than Pakeha, at least in those proportions. So something else must be happening here. There is no argument that our Criminal Justice System is fundamentally racist. The only question is, where is that discrimination most obviously displayed?
01.02.03 THINK TANK
01.02.04Te reo Maori
How fair is the NZ justice system?
01.02.21 It's not fair at all. The simple fact is you can go out, I can go out and slit somebody's throat and be out of jail in 15 years, and laughing all the way.
01.02.28 I think they need to be harder on criminals.
01.02.30 I would say it's fair.
01.02.31 When somebody commits murder they only spend a short time in jail. I don’t think that’s OK. It's not right to me.
01.02.45 The New Zealand justice system is as fair as those administering it. The same applies to any system of justice.
01.02.53 ….Think Tank. Today's kaupapa – Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System.
01.03.01 Our guests today are Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment – Paula Bold-Wilson, Manager of Waitakere Law Service – Superintendent Wally Haumaha, General Manager of Maori Pacific and Ethnic Services, Police Headquarters, and Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs and Associate Minister of Corrections. Aharau kia koutou.
01.03.21 The first question that I put to you, probably Kim, why is it that Maori represents so highly and disproportionately in criminal justice statistics?
Kim Workman
Director – Rethinking Crime and Punishment
01.03.30 Well I think we all understand that the drivers of crime issue around what causes people to commit crime, what are the underlying factors and Maori represented in those areas, are in the areas of poverty, unemployment, housing, education, The other factors however that I think are significant, research that has showed over the last 15 years, a bias against Maori in the system, in terms of the extent to which Maori are arrested and apprehended in comparison to non-Maori, and the way they're processed in the system, we know that Maori are more likely to be sent to prison, less likely to be remanded on bail, and more likely to be denied diversion and so on.
01.04.20 Wally do you think that’s fair, is there institutional racism in the New Zealand Police, and the way in which they conduct themselves?
Superintendent Wally Haumaha
GM – Maori, Pacific & Ethnic Services Police HQ
01.04.27 Well no I don’t think so. I think it's quite easy and simplistic to take a view that the New Zealand Police are an organisation that’s institutionally racist. I would like to think that there are certain issues, certain factors that actually lead the officers to make certain decisions about why people are arrested. So for example if you look at the issues that they have to take into consideration, they're based on perhaps the severity and seriousness of an offence. They look at the offending history of the offender. They look at the victim's preference for charging. So all of those factors are taken into consideration.
01.05.10 Paula what's your view out there on the coalface at the Waitakere Courts?
Paula Bold-Wilson
Manager of Waitakere Law Service
01.05.14 Yeah it's interesting when you talk about research, the Waitakere Community Law Service did some research with our young people in West Auckland and what we found that there was emerging things from the young people around being targeted, because they were Maori, or they were Pacifica, you know it is clear that there is targeting of our young people in our community.
01.05.37 Look they call it ethnic profiling out there.
Yes they do.
01.05.41 So we should just call it what it is. Do you think that occurs Minister? What's your view on this?
Dr Pita Sharples
Assoc Minister of Corrections – Maori Party
01.05.47 Oh that’s the reason why I opt to be part of the system because I believe the whole thing needs review. The criminal justice system in New Zealand is negative, it's punitive, and whereas there's no habitation, supporting or anything like that in the system, whether it's Police, courts or prisons, right across the board. And there's no doubt the research shows that Maori are more likely to be stopped, apprehended, more likely to be taken in and charged, more likely – and this is five times, seven times, depending on the age, more likely to be prosecuted and more likely to have an incarceration than Pakeha doing the same offence out in the community. And how do you justify that, how do you justify we imprison seven times more Maori than Pakeha men. Nine times more Maori women than Pakeha women. I mean these are the real figures.
01.06.40 Wally I'm grateful for you coming on, because it's very rare that a Police Officer will come on to anything actually, so I just want to acknowledge your courage. I've talked to your conferences and the problem you have is that our Maori officers are in a very difficult position, their people say are you a Maori or are you a policeman? That’s a very tough question to answer, what's your answer to that?
01.07.04 Well look there is no doubt that most of our Maori Police Officers are proud of their Maori heritage and identify certainly with their tribal roots. Secondly I think they join the New Zealand Police so that they can provide a service to our people, and I think if they both intertwine then you’ve got a richness of a Police Officer who can provide …
01.07.25 Okay well let's move from the Police, cos the Police are the catchers and then you’ve got a whole processing agency called Corrections and all that. So let's ask this question. Do you think that there is systemic racism or ethnic profiling or whatever way you like to call it throughout that whole system, from the catch to the process to the imprisonment?
01.07.44 Look John yes I believe there is, and it's unfortunate for the Police because they're at the front end of the system, they're the most public part of the criminal justice system, so it's natural that everyone will attach the blame on the Police.
Give us an example.
01.08.02 Well let me give you one example. About four weeks ago my 21 year old son, who's adopted and Maori and distinctly so, coming out of our driveway and he's stopped by a Police Officer. What are you doing coming out of that driveway? He said well actually my parents live there. He said oh I thought you were a BP, a Black Power. And my son said what made you think that? He said you are wearing a blue jacket. But he said it's the jacket that my company gives me to wear to drive my truck, how could you possibly believe that I was a Black Power? Now I think that’s an instance of ethnic profiling, which on its own is quite innocent from an outsider's point of view, but when that happens to you one week after another after another, that becomes ethnic profiling, and that causes quite a lot of trauma, because Maoris start to realise that actually they're not as much part of this country as they thought they were. They're being distinctive and set apart from the rest of our people. And I think that causes a really bad attitude in some of our people, and it possibly contributes to an increase in offending.
01.09.22 And that’s the danger, so many Maori are in prison that their families know about prison, the kids know about prison, and they know about the courts, it's all part of our whole lifestyle, and it just creates sort of antagonism towards that system and so on, and vice versa the Police, the Police have to deal with so many Maori. For many of them, oh another one, another one and so on, and that creates a negative culture which we've gotta break.
01.09.49 Paula, leaving the Police to one side cos they're the catchers, what about the baggers, cos you’ve got legal aid lawyers, then you’ve got what goes on in the courts, then you’ve got Corrections, do you see it all the way through the system?
01.10.01 Yeah I would say you would and you know it's quite interesting around the legal aid review that the government has just recently pushed through, and I mean that’s going to have a huge impact on our people, because their eligibility has been you know decreased, and so there’ll be more of our people who won’t get legal representation. The other thing is that you know applicants now have to pay $100 to get legal aid. Now for most of our whanau that’s going to be a barrier to access justice.
01.10.33 The last time we looked at Maori ethnicity and bail for example was in 1977, and they found one of the reasons why Maori didn’t get bail was because they couldn’t come up with the money for a bail bond. Now that was abolished in 1985 I think. But today I suspect one of the reasons is because they don’t have anywhere to stay, they're unemployed, and so that those ticks turn into crosses, and the court decides this guy's a risk and so they put them inside.
01.11.04 I've looked at the numbers too and it's quite clear that if I stripped out social economic status. See I used to think it was because we were poor. If you strip out poor Pakeha they get a better deal. So it's not just socio economic issues. it's not just because Maori are in the poverty group, there's something else. Would you accept that?
I think that’s true.
01.11.28 Well hold the conversation there, kaitiaki, we'll be back with more on Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System after this.
01.11.33COMING UP on Think Tank
…after the break, we'll set some objectives to solve some of these problems. Then we'll work out how to implement them.
01.11.45 The Police could learn a lot from studying Maori Police and the way they interact with their own people.
01.12.04Welcome back to Think Tank. We are looking at the issues that affect us all, and trying to deliver practical solutions. Today, we're talking about discrimination in the NZ criminal Justice System.
01.12.18 Look, yes or no, we'll just go straight down the role here. Is there systemic discrimination in the New Zealand Criminal Justice System? Yes or no?
01.12.28 Well I guess that’s what the research shows yes.
Thank you for that Wall you're not under cross examination. Okay Minister?
01.12.37 Yes and against many groups.
Okay so what are we gonna do about that?
Superintendent Wally Haumaha
GM – Maori, Pacific & Ethnic Services Police HQ
01.12.41 We are in an exciting position in terms of the approach that we're taking. We're shifting the mindset into a more preventative position to look at how we address the five drivers of crime as we see it as our priority. Families, looking at the issues around family violence, looking at the issues around youth offending, looking at the issues around alcohol and the impacts on families that trigger off these other things. Looking at the position of organised crime and drugs that have a huge impact on our communities, including methamphetamine. And the Minister is well attuned to those issues.
01.13.18 Paula and the Minister, do you see that happening on the street?
Paula Bold-Wilson
Manager of Waitakere Law Service
01.13.21 I'm not sure, I think what concerns me is we have all these policies but they don’t filter down at a grassroots level, that level of leadership that kinda happens in a regional area doesn’t always filter down.
Dr Pita Sharples
Assoc Minister of Corrections – Maori Party
01.13.36 Part of the reason for that is that there's a lot of good things going on. In Corrections, in the courts, and in the Police but it's embedded in the same infrastructure if you like, the same base which has that negative culture running right across it into the public. You’ve really gotta shift the rehabilitation out of the negative side and start rehabilitating with a positive staff. We've created a whare orangi ake which is a place where people go for the last part of their sentence, ready to rehabilitate them with their families, community, job, and those kinda things.
Kim Workman
Director – Rethinking Crime and Punishment
01.14.13 Can I just acknowledge something about Maori Policemen, because we did some research years ago now, probably Wally thinks I'm a bit ancient but look, one of the things we found was that matching the performance of Maori Police against non-Maori Police over a five year period, we found that Maori Police while they initially weren't very good at writing reports and stuff, their relationship skills and their ability to use their discretion around working with people was far in advance of non-Maori, and I think the Police could learn a lot from studying Maori Police in the way they interact with their own people. If they did that I think they'd develop a whole new way of working.
01.15.04 Well if they did that the Urewera incident wouldn’t have occurred.
It wouldn’t have happened, no.
Is that right Minister?
01.15.11 Let me just make this point even around recruiting. I see on Facebook on our recruitment programme 1300 Maori attended police seminars last year. So we're running recruiting programmes in institutions like the Wharewananga Aotearoa, out at Mangere campus and Waikato campus, Gisborne and Rotorua. So you know I think that the Maori role modelling inside of the organisation is encouraging a lot of our people, and that’s where change comes from. So if we get the right people doing the right things in communities then those changes will address the issues that the Minister is talking about.
01.15.49 Okay well we'll just wind this bit up by just quickly trying to get nutshells out of you what your solution would be rather than going to another wiwitanga.
01.16.00 Engaging whanau in transformation is I think a move forward, but also if we're serious about this stuff we've gotta come to grips with the information, do some research and look at the system, look at the structures and the processes, but also about the personal behaviour around you know how do you treat people on the street. I think that’s important.
01.16.24 I guess you know out at Waitakere you know we had a good Area Commander out there who was trying to change you know the culture of that organisation and you know for me it is around leadership which is what you picked up on today, and I understand the new Area Commander out in Waitakere has a similar approach. So I'm excited about the Police approach now in terms of doing more preventative work rather than punitive.
01.16.56 I'm really happy out there in terms of the drop in processing and charging of youth, because you used to put them straight on 15 year trajectory into the system, and so what you’ve said Wally is from my own experiences out on the street is starting to work okay, and it can't happen overnight can it?
01.17.16 Absolutely I think there's a huge transformation taking place inside of policing, and I think if you look at the position that we've taken in terms of our strategy around prevention first is to put prevention at the forefront of our whole policing approach. And when you look at now we've implemented a process around alternative resolutions which is about pre-charge warning. So that will start to take a significant difference and make a significant impact on the number of people coming through the system. So our focus is to reduce recorded crime by at least 13%, to reduce the number of prosecutions on traffic by 19%. What impact will that have on Maori? I'm hoping that in the long run this will benefit Maori hugely.
01.18.04 Well we'll stop there. Kaitiaki. We'll be back with more on Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System after this.
COMING UP on Think Tank
01.18.10After the break, we'll turn our attention to implementing practical solutions.
01.18.20 So how do we address these problems together cos the Police can't do this on their own?
01.18.39Welcome back to Think Tank. Today, we're talking about discrimination in the NZ criminal Justice System. Now it's time to take it one step further and lock down some practical and feasible solutions.
01.18.50 I'm out of the bottle right and I'm your genie. You’ve got three wishes. If you had three things that you could do to change this system, what would it be?
Dr Pita Sharples
01.19.02 I'd have a Royal Commission to review the whole criminal justice system which includes Police, courts and prisons. Secondly I would advocate that it's a whole of New Zealand thing that the media have to come to the party and be self-regulatory about reporting on criminal incidents. That parliamentary parties have to make a pact that this is one thing we won’t politicise and get political capital out of, we'll work together. And that all these kind of things of us working together, and then to look at a split in the system if you like so that you do have your punitive hard core stuff, but then on the road back you move that into another area that’s a different kind of prison where the culture is quite different, and so people can be treated as human beings again and learn to act responsibly. One of the best things I saw in Australia, their prisons are definitely graded to low medium and so on, and there's a reward system and a very strong monitoring of each inmate, case management, and they get rewards system and they can move to the next prison, the next prison, until in the end they're almost living free out there, the last part of the sentence.
Wally Haumaha
01.20.22 People are always calling for more stronger sentencing and harsher penalties but I think you know the Minister's right, it's more around the rehabilitation. How do we look at reintegration back into communities? And I think that shifts the argument into a whole different space. The two pieces of work that I'm excited about is the fact that we have a prevention programme that is shifting the mindset of our staff, to think more in the prevention space. Before we go to arrest are there alternative options? Are there other options of dealing with the young offenders? Are there interventions for Maori to be engaged early in the piece? The other piece of work that we're excited about is Turning of the Tide, and the Turning of the Tide is a Whanau Ora approach to crime prevention, and it talks about the things that our Maori communities will do, the things that our Police will do in terms of informing each other.
01.21.14 Hence the reason I have been advocating up and down the country Minister, for the Police to become strongly attached to the Whanau Ora collectives, because service provision brings some ownership, responsibility, sits inside of that community. People like you John with great programmes running in Waipareira, working alongside the Waitakere Police. I mean we sat down and we shared some information about the crime profiles that were happening in your district. Now it shocked you, so how do we address these problems together, cos the Police can't do this on their own. They are looking to people like yourself, community providers, to provide some of the fix, not so much around the individuals, in the Whanau Ora philosophy, around families.
Very good. Paula, three things.
Paula Bold-Wilson
01.22.01 You know as a country we really need to start investing in preventative work, so rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that we actually put money into like around Whanau Ora to work holistically with our whanau, to try and prevent that from happening. I mean we are starting to see a shift with our people and that’s really exciting. The other thing I wanted to just pick up on again is you know leadership, leadership within the Police, leadership within the justice system and leadership within the Corrections. Kind of those ideas need to filter down at a grassroots level.
Kim Workman
01.22.44 Well I think moving from the top on crime mantra to smart on crime - I think that’s a great start now all we have to do is implement it. Secondly instead of focusing on reinvesting money within the justice sector pipeline which they talk about, invest it in the community. I mean the community – the Police I think have led the way in this in terms of engaging the community in crime prevention, but Corrections still believe that the only people that can do corrections are Corrections. So we have to actually engage community. It's harder now for volunteers to get into prisons to visit prisoners than it ever was. We've gotta stop that stuff and thirdly I think is how do we empty the prisons not fill them, why build another prison you know when we don’t need it, and look 70% of the people in prison today are going to be out within six months, they don’t actually need to be there. There should be rehab programmes, not run in prisons, but run in the community
01.23.41 Okay well we're just gonna wrap this up now. So if there's anything sort of you want to get off your chest
01.23.48 Until you change the prison system, the incarceration system nothing's going to change. We have to heal people, we have to heal the community, so that we're all in favour of getting these guys out of there and bringing them back into the community. It is a whole of New Zealand thing that we have to do John, not just look at the prison and so on, but it's the whole community, our attitudes and so on. We've gotta take this on together, the media's gotta be involved.
Okay, any comment anyone?
01.24.15 John, I would subscribe to shifting the responsibility and the ownership more inside of communities. We can look at the system and look at the disproportionate over representation inside of the system, but I think if we take more responsibility, more ownership inside of taking care of our people. We mentioned earlier health, education and crime, I think that’s the best bet that we have in terms of addressing the disparities that exist, otherwise we're forever tinkering with the system.
01.24.48 We actually need a two prong approach, we need you know to look at that systemic bias and start addressing some of that as well, because there's no point fixing the whanau if the system isn't fixed as well. I worry my boy is ten years old, he is distinctly Maori. What is his future when he walks down that street?
Doing the haka without his shirt on.
01.25.11 Yeah, I worry don’t be trendy and wear all the trendy youth clothes because there's a very good chance you're gonna get picked up. My concern is when our young people congregate together, just like any other group of young people congregate together, they're seen as a gang or being disorderly. We need to shift that mindset, that these are young people who hang out just like we did when we were young. So although I hear what you're saying I think it has to be a two prong approach.
01.25.39 I think we need to take a basic look at how we regard criminal justice and say is it about this punishment rehabilitation thing or is there another model? And if we look at northern Europe and Scandinavia they see criminal justice simply as part of a broader social policy initiative and so the focus is always in minimising social harm, and healing the community, and I think if we looked at what we did in the criminal justice area on those lines we might start doing things differently, because 40% of all Maori men over the age of 15 have either been in prison or served a community sentence. Now that’s a shocking statistic, and we need to be able to respond to it.
01.26.29Thanks to our guests for joining us today. By discussing these issues we can find solutions. We'll be back next week exploring another issue. Until then … look after yourself.
01.27.06Te MĀNGAI PAHO
01.27.14 End
THINK TANK TV3 Sundays 9.30am

Next in New Zealand politics

Poll Shows Three Quarters Of Wellingtonians Oppose Airport Sale
By: Wellington Airport
Christopher Luxon - Pre-Budget Speech To Auckland Business Chamber
By: New Zealand Government
New Zealand Supports UN Palestine Resolution
By: New Zealand Government
Greens Welcome Cross-party Approach To Climate Adaptation
By: Green Party
Climate Change – Mitigating The Risks And Costs
By: New Zealand Government
Protest March Against Fast-track Bill Announced For Auckland
By: Greenpeace
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media