31 Aug 2015

Waitangi claim filed over incarcerated Maori

8:16 pm on 31 August 2015

A retired probation officer today filed an urgent claim in the Waitangi Tribunal alleging the Crown has failed to cut the high number of Māori in prison, and their reoffending.

Rimutaka Prison's high dependency unit.

Corrections is failing Maori, a retired probation officer says. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Tom Hemopo's "Corrections Claim' has the backing of two Hawkes Bay iwi entities - Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust.

Mr Hemopo, who worked as a probation officer for 25 years before retiring in 2011, said Corrections is failing to look for solutions with Māori.

"I am asking the Tribunal to consider this claim urgently because too many Māori are suffering right now while the Crown ignores its failure to reduce the numbers of Māori in prison and reoffending on release.

Tom Hemopo, Waitangi Tribunal claimant.

Tom Hemopo Photo: Supplied

"I hope by hearing this claim urgently, the Tribunal will hold the Crown to account. But more importantly I hope it will challenge the stereotype that there is something about Māori that makes us criminals."

The claim asks the Tribunal to make findings that the Crown has breached the principles of the Treaty, and to recommend that it make immediate changes to address the high reoffending rates of Māori and high numbers of Māori in prison.

Mr Hemopo made a claim in 2004 where the Waitangi Tribunal found Corrections had breached the Treaty principles of consultation and partnership in failing to work with Māori on its part of the sentencing process.

Mr Hemopo said his current claim alleged much wider long term failure by the Crown.

The next steps in the Waitangi Tribunal process will involve a response by the Crown and other interested parties.