We need more conversations about institutional racism - Corrections Minister

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says there needs to be more conversations around institutional racism in New Zealand's justice sector.

"We have to examine why it is there are so many Māori in prison. It's not good for New Zealand," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"I have to acknowledge Mike Bush, who acknowledged unconscious bias in the police. I said, 'good on him, that's excellent'. If we can at least have those honest conversations, we can start looking at the honest solutions."

New Zealand's current prison population is currently at 10,146 people, with Māori making up 51 percent of that number. Mr Davis, who fronted the Criminal Justice Summit this week, says this is of personal significance to him.

"Of those 5000 prisoners, 2500 are my people of Ngapuhi, so I'm invested. I have a personal interest as much as any Corrections Minister has ever had in reducing the prison population."

He says there needs to be more focus on early intervention to avoid Māori entering the justice system in the first place

"Because what we're doing is locking up people, teenagers, late teens through to early 30s - which is when you should be finishing off becoming the person you are, and yet they're being finished off inside cells."

Documents obtained by Newshub Nation earlier this year contained advice received by Justice Minister Andrew Little on lowering prison populations. The documents were heavily redacted.

The information was released again this week with some initial redactions removed, including the advice that unconscious bias and systematic bias were likely playing a role in overrepresentation of Māori in prisons.

When asked if this redacted information meant he was scared to have the information in public, Mr Davis replied: "No not at all, we need to be talking about everything that leads to so many Maori going into prison and falling into the justice system."

Newshub Nation.

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