An organisation that lobbies for prison reform supports a proposal by Associate Corrections Minister Pita Sharples for separate rehabilitation centres for Maori.
Barrister Peter Williams QC, who heads the Howard League for Penal Reform, says he has no doubt the move would lead to a reduction in crime.
He told Waatea News that it's "unrealistic" to expect prisoners to return to normal behaviour at the end of their sentences after locking them up for 23 hours a day.
He said "we've got to open our minds and learn to develop their potential".
Mr Williams says the idea is long overdue and those opposing prison reform are decades behind what is happening internationally.
He says teaching people to respect their heritage and restoring their self-esteem will lead to less crime.