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August 7, 2017 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira |
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Te Ara Tauira

One of the biggest problems here in Aotearoa is that a lot of us fail to see the connection with all the shit that happened to us 200 years ago. It is a mamae that we can see manifest in our whānau in the prison system. The current makeup of that population reflects decades of policy engineered by early-Pākehā to imprison and enslave Māori.

I know the gut-wrenching feeling of having someone you know and love go through the courts and having to pray that they don’t end up in remand for months, that they don’t have their soul broken by a system that hates them. Despite being around 15% of the general population, Māori make up around 50% of the prison population. Those are mums, dads, brothers and sisters, aunties, uncles, sons, and daughters in there.

Last week I was lucky enough to head up to Rotorua for JustSpeak’s Whiti te Rā, a kaupapa Māori hui about transforming the justice system. It was there that I heard this: “To cage and imprison someone is the most violent act of terrorism you can wield against a Māori person.” Where do we go from here? We can’t all be choice prison abolitionists like JustSpeak, but we can change the way we think about prisons; the way we think about prisoners.

Prison is nowhere near adequate enough to address the reasons why people are in jail, let alone heal those people and end those cycles of crime. We gotta stop thinking about it as an individual problem, and start realising that it’s actually our problem as a collective. We gotta stop looking externally for solutions to our problems because we already have all the tools we need to solve all these issues, which weren’t ours to begin with.

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