The Waitangi Tribunal will hear with urgency a claim alleging the Crown has failed to do enough to reduce the number of Maori in prison and slash high reoffending rates.
Retired probation officer Tom Hemopo is taking the claim on behalf of himself and his iwi.
"I asked the tribunal to consider this claim urgently because too many Maori are suffering right now while the Crown ignores its failure to reduce the numbers of Maori in prison and reoffending on release.
"I am grateful to the Waitangi Tribunal for recognising the seriousness of the issues and hope that the hearing of this claim will lead to the Crown making the changes that are so long overdue," Mr Hemopo said.
The claim is asked the tribunal to find that the Crown has breached the principles of the treaty, and to recommend that the Crown make immediate changes to address the high reoffending rates of Maori and high numbers of Maori in prison.
Judge Patrick Savage, deputy chairman of the tribunal, said it was an application that needed to be addressed.
"If the applicant is right, and I express no view on that, then many young Maori men and women are in the Corrections system or will enter it tomorrow, next month or next year.
"If the applicant is correct then for those people and their families there is imminent and perhaps irreversible prejudice," he said.
Though Maori make up almost 16 percent of the population, half of all men and 63 percent of women in prisons are Maori.
The hearing to consider the claim will be held in the middle of next year.