13 Nov 2014

Inmates can challenge taonga ban

7:56 am on 13 November 2014

Prisoners who must remove bone or greenstone necklaces can complain to the Human Rights Commission.

From next Monday, new inmates or those being transferred to another jail will have their pounamu or manaia removed and sent back to their whanau. Existing prisoners can keep them.

The Human Rights Commission says a prisoner who is unable to wear a religious or cultural item of significance can make a complaint of discrimination.

It says any such complaint would be looked at and a decision made about the most appropriate way to address it.

However, the commission does say schools and workplaces can prevent the wearing of items such as taonga for reasons such as health and safety.

The Corrections Department says the main reason for banning taonga is because of their value and they are often traded among inmates and start conflicts.

Tikanga Maori expert Pou Temara believes the ban may be devastating for prisoners because often a taonga is a family heirloom, and the essence of those who have worn it is transferred to the current owner.

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