Locked Up Warriors

Although New Zealand is one of the most peaceful countries in the entire world, it happens to have one of the highest imprisonment rates as well, falling in second highest in the western world. Not only is there such a high imprisonment rate but half of the jailed people are indigenous Maori. However, Maori only make up 15% of New Zealand’s population. In the last two decades the jail population has doubled. Prisoners cost on average $94,000 each to lock up and though it seems this is New Zealand’s way to act “tough on crime” as is done across western nations, New Zealands crime rates have always been low. So, is this a sustainable method to keep up? Also, why is it that the indigenous Maori make up such a large portion in prison compared to outside prison? Maori people say it has become the norm to know someone who is currently locked up and it is almost expected to have a chance at being locked up. This is due to the children of those in jail being left so vulnerable to fall into the lifestyle of young offenders. There is a high rate of child poverty, school dropout, unemployment and family breakdown in indigenous communities.

Many young Maori are drawn into American-style street gangs and left with a gap between them and their heritage. Programs for those in prison have been set up to try to connect the Maori with their roots by practicing the traditional warrior dance the Haka. However, it is clear these don’t have the needed effect and the prisoners need to be able to communicate with the outside by being placed there and involved in projects close to their roots. New Zealand government are introducing new programs but is it worth it to keep their punishment so harsh?

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