One-in-three children in state care serve prison sentences as adults - Royal Commission

One out of every three children and young people placed in residential care by the state went on to serve a prison sentence later in life, according to new research from the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry. 

The Care to Custody: Incarceration Rates Research Report is the first of its kind to analyse records of 31,000 children and young people between 1950 and 1999. 

Since 2019, the Royal Commission has been speaking to survivors of abuse in state institutions. 

They've recounted experiences of physical, sexual and mental abuse at children's homes, psychiatric facilities and detention centres alike.

The Commission said the research provides evidence of a direct link between state care and criminal custody.   

Survivor Hohepa Taiaroa said the report is reflective of his own experience. 

He said those who were with him at institutions Kohitere and Epuni Boys' Home were his fellow inmates later in life. 

He told the Commission he learned to fight to avoid being raped and picked on in institutions, and many other people in state care put up a mental wall in order to survive the harsh environments. 

The research shows Māori children and young people were even more likely to end up in prison, with 42 percent serving a custodial sentence as an adult.

Survivor Tupua Urlich said it was expected for children in care to turn out to be criminals. 

He told the Commission when he was 15, a social worker asked if he was part of the youth justice system. 

When he said he wasn't, the social worker responded: "Oh, so future youth justice then."

The report found New Zealanders who had been placed in state residential care as children were approximately five to nine times more likely to be imprisoned than those who had not.