Criminal Injustice: Racist Cruelty

10000 too many

Protest and campaigning inside and out has put the justice system under the spotlight.

Nine years of National rule has left a cruel and brutalising legacy in New Zealand’s criminal justice system. Last year the prison population reached 10,100, an all-time high. The number of people incarcerated has increased by 364 percent in the last 30 years, according to researcher Roger Brooking. The system is racist. Over half of the prison population is Māori, and Māori are more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and given custodial sentences than non-Māori. National’s changes to the bail laws in 2013 made it much more difficult for those facing trial to get bail, leading to still more people spending time in prison. The situation is stark. According to OECD statistics, as of May 2018 New Zealand has 220 prisoners per 100,000 people, the fifth highest incarceration rate in the developed world.

Two things have got us into this sorry situation. Decades of bipartisan support for neoliberalism resulted in alienation as poverty grew and housing conditions deteriorated. The conditions that drive crime worsened.  Secondly, National and Labour, and the mass media giving publicity to the cranks of Garth McVicar’s Sensible Sentencing Trust, indulged in the crudest penal populism until a vicious “tough on crime” rhetoric was normalised. Crimes rates began to drop in the 1990s, but four new prisons were built in the 2000s as the number of people imprisoned continued to rise. The rate for Māori women is especially awful, as Moana Jackson has shown, growing from around 20 percent of the female prison population in the 1980s to 60 percent today. The prisons are overcrowded, humiliating, a source of loneliness and misery to those inside and their families outside, and they generate ongoing social costs, not least more crime. [Read more…]

The struggle for Ihumātao

SOUL Protest

SOUL Protest, 2017. Image credit: Waatea News.

By Tania Te Hira-Mathie

 

 

Located in Māngere, South Auckland, Ihumātao is Auckland’s oldest settlement and one of New Zealand’s most important historic archaeological sites. This site, northwest of Auckland airport, has been part of a long struggle to save Māori land. Ihumātao is the largest remaining intact gardening site found in New Zealand. “Ihumātao is the beginning of Auckland”, explains archeologist Dave Veart in a Radio New Zealand interview, “with the descendants of the first residents of Tāmaki Makaurau living a kilometre down the road. Compared to other archaeological sites it shows how people lived in a way that’s remarkably easy to understand.”

The land also has significance as an unsettled land dispute. Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL), the campaign group involving mana whenua and other community groups, attest that Ihumātao is land that was confiscated by the State in 1863, as punishment for local iwi refusing to swear allegiance to the Crown.

[Read more…]

Māori struggles and the TPPA

WaitangiBy Joshua O’Sullivan

 

Earlier this month the blessings of Ranginui washed the hikoi as it made its way to the powhiri at Te Tii Marae at Waitangi in the midst of pouring rain. Around 200 people assembled. Some had made the long march from Northland to Auckland and back, others, like us, joined after the massive anti TPPA demonstrations. Our hikoi was welcomed by the Ngā Puhi elders, who spoke on the marae about the challenges facing Māori today.

Māori sovereignty and all indigenous rights were raised by the speakers: that only Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi are mentioned specifically in the agreement was a scandal.  The Ainu of Japan, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, Hawaiians, the Mapuche of Chile, and the first nations tribes of Canada and the US are not mentioned at all. Ratana elder and former Mana party leader Kereama Pene said Māori had to represent on an international level: “The whole world is focused on Māori, we were a big part of writing the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights, Māori are the one to win this and if we fight we will have the support of all indigenous people.” [Read more…]

The Criminal Injustice System: from Aotearoa to the USA

the-new-jim-crowMichelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow (2011) has caused a huge storm of discussion, debate and controversy in the United States. It may well be a book that sparks a new social movement. Alexander documents the rise of mass incarceration in the USA, and link this to entrenched racism, poverty and injustice. The privatising and ‘outsourcing’ of prison as business, and the ‘law and order’ turn are part of neoliberal politics the world over.

This has obvious relevance in Aotearoa. The prison system disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika people. The powers of the state – to harass, humiliate, detain and lock-up – are felt every day in brown people’s lives. The history of white settler colonial rule has relied on locking up and disenfranchising Maori people. A new phase in capitalism, and the symptoms of poverty in recession, looks to imprisonment again. [Read more…]

Anti-Chinese rants won’t stop asset sales

There was an evening rally against asset sales in Wellington on February 13. As a gathering of the committed the attendance was quite good. Estimates vary, but 400 would be about right I think. The unions – which could potentially turnout thousands of members against privatization – are not able to do so in their present state of passivity. Indeed, the unions were barely visible. There was not one union speaker, and no Labour Party speaker either, for that matter. The character of the rally did not represent the organized labour movement – that means unionised workers and members of parties based on the working class. [Read more…]

Treaty hides racist rip-off

Sovereignty... Protesters at Waitangi fly the flag of the Confederated Tribes of Aotearoa, which declared independence in 1835. (Photo: Derwin Smith)

Sovereignty… Protesters at Waitangi fly the flag of the Confederated Tribes of Aotearoa, which declared independence in 1835. (Photo: Derwin Smith)

For many New Zealanders, Waitangi Day is a time to celebrate the founding of New Zealand, a nation which we are taught to believe is born of a union of two peoples, Maori and Pakeha – “He iwi tahi tatou”. This national myth serves to obscure the true character of the treaty and the colonial state that it established. Far from being an idealistic union of two people, the founding of modern New Zealand was born of the bloody theft of land and resources; modern New Zealand and its wealth is built on the ruins of a pre-existing Maori society that had to be torn apart before space could be created for capitalism to supersede it. [Read more…]