‘This is personal for me’: Kelvin Davis on Maori prison stats

Long Lunch 22/08/2018
Photo: Newshub.

The overrepresentation of Maori in prisons has been the focus of this week’s criminal justice summit in Wellington.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told RadioLIVE that the justice system needs to help transition prisoners back into society, with a large focus on Maori inmates.

I want Maori to be part of the solutions.

“Ultimately we need more Maori on the outside being contributing members of society rather than on the inside,” Mr Davis said.

Maori make up 16 percent of the general population, but 51 percent of the prison population. There are 10,235 prisoners in our jails, down from 10,800 in March. The Government has promised a 30 percent reduction in 15 years.

"We’re basically talking about improving the whole system for Maori, since Maori make up the majority of people who are incarcerated,” Mr Davis told RadioLIVE.

But the focus on Maori inmates was not without controversy at the summit. Anzac Wallace, the star of 1983 film Utu, interrupted MP Jan Logie's speech to voice his frustration over lack of Maori representation at the summit.

"Where are Maori?" he asked the summit.

Mr Davis, who spoke on Maori misrepresentation a few hours later, said that of the 50 percent Maori inmates, he believes that half are from his own Ngapuhi iwi.

“It breaks my heart. This is personal for me,” Mr Davis told RadioLIVE.

“If we can reduce the Ngapuhi prison population, that means we’re reducing the Maori prison population, and that means we’re reducing the overall prison population.”

While the Government has yet to set up a target for fewer Maori prisoners, half of its justice advisory group is made up of half Maori – representation that Mr Davis is pleased about.

“I want Maori to be part of the solutions,” he said. 

Listen to the full interview with Kelvin Davis above.

The Long Lunch with Carly Flynn, in for Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.