Justice system reform must place children at its centre to 'disrupt the transfer of social inequality' - expert

  • 24/10/2022

New Zealand's criminal justice system is failing children at multiple levels leading to widespread trauma and intergenerational inequality, according to one leading expert.

"Children should be absolutely at the centre, at the moment they are often disregarded and great levels of harm can come to them," said Auckland University indigenous studies Professor Tracey McIntosh.

For children with incarcerated parents "the impact is nearly immediate from that time of arrest", especially if the arrested parent is the mother, who is often the primary caregiver.

"In some cases, they've seen the arrest of their mother, and that in itself has been really traumatic," said Prof McIntosh.

Prof McIntosh noted that while "we have incredible pieces of work like what we see with Pillars and others", more support is needed, particularly in small-town New Zealand.

"It's absolutely critical that we have resourcing at a hapū and iwi level where communities know the whānau."

Over 65 percent of women in prison are Māori, disproportionately impacting their communities.

"The research and evidence is clear, that the impact on children is significant in terms of life outcomes," Prof McIntosh said.

"For far too many it narrows their life trajectories. We should be doing everything possible to ensure that all of our children have the broadest life trajectories in front of them.

"We're trying to disrupt this transfer of social inequality, and I think that should be a part of a national agenda."

Watch the interview for more.