Why are young Māori over-represented in New Zealand’s youth justice system? Maybe we could start by asking them.
The first Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report, recently released by the Ministry of Justice, shows that young Māori (and Pasifika) increasingly make up the greatest proportion of young people who appear in Youth Court.
We’ve known for a while that young Māori are over-represented in New Zealand’s youth justice system. What we don’t know is why.
Some say young Māori offend more as they are suffering trauma from the intergenerational effects of colonisation. Others say parental incarceration is to blame, as it robs Māori children of their family stability and prison becomes understood as somewhere that Māori go to for a time.
There are also those who argue that the problem is not with Māori but with the criminal justice system. That the over-representation of Māori in our youth system and in our adult jails is a result of institutional bias, i.e. racist cops, prejudiced judges and practices that have a bigger impact on Māori when compared with non-Māori.
We know that there is more than a grain of truth to each of these theories, but we don’t yet have enough research to confirm or refute their claims. So, they are routinely dismissed as radical ideas thrown around by disgruntled Māori and floaty academic types.
But what we also know is that if the coalition government holds onto Bill English’s social investment vision the youth court trends are only going to get worse. Continue reading Social Investment and Māori in Youth Court