Te Uepū sought to actively listen to and understand what New Zealanders think about the current system.
They heard many diverse views, including from people harmed by crime and people who have offended. They also heard from their whānau and families, their communities and those who provide services within the system.
The overwhelming emotion they encountered is one of grief - because so many people feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect. Associated with this grief is often anger. However, they also heard about the importance of hope and the belief that we can build a system that works for everyone.
He Waka Roimata covers the following major themes emerging from the group’s conversations:
- too many people who have been harmed by crime feel unheard, misunderstood and re-victimised
- the number of Māori in the system is a crisis
- violence is an enormous problem, particularly for families and children
- formal justice processes fail us too often
- the system is too focused on punishment and neglects prevention, rehabilitation, reconciliation and repair of the harm done by crime
- individuals, families and whānau feel unsupported and disempowered by the system, and the ability of iwi, hapū, communities, NGOs and others to provide support is constrained by the siloed nature of government structures and funding arrangements
- people experiencing mental distress lack the support they need.
Te Uepū concluded that the need for transformative change is urgent. Successful transformation of the criminal justice system will require a deliberate focus on people who have been harmed, people who offend and their whānau and families in their wider social context. It will also require reform throughout the whole system and a long-term commitment to change.