Topic: Prison

Cultural rehabilitation expert criticises NZ prison system

By Mere McLean
  • Auckland

Selwyn Jones of Tainui descent, has over 12 years experience working to reduce re-offending among Māori in New Zealand prisons. His approach and skills have been received so well that prisons offshore have called for his expertise to help indigenous inmates.

In light of the latest allegations at Mt Eden Prison, he is now calling for Serco to finish.

Prisons, is a multi-million dollar business according to Selwyn Jones, an expert on cultural rehabilitation in New Zealand Prisons.

He says, “Serco are only here to make money for themselves.”

Jones has just recently returned from speaking at the USA Polynesian Conference on prisons held in San Francisco. 

For over the past 12 years he has been working to reduce re-offending among Māori in New Zealand prisons.

Jones says, “Referencing to our ancestors is the spiritual element, that's all you need to awaken them.”

The recent footage that has emerged showing organised fights at Mt Eden Prison has him questioning private operators of New Zealand prisons.

“I know the management of that prison and they don't have the authority to stop those atrocities,” says Jones.

Yesterday Labour MP Kelvin Davis claimed Mt Eden Prison inmates are subject to an initiation ritual called "dropping" where they are thrown over a balcony onto the concrete below.

He also claimed that this was the cause of one man’s death.  Jones says he's witnessed violence in prisons and can understand how things eventuate.

But Serco say they haven't received any reports on this alleged practice and say there have been no such hospital admissions.

In a statement, Serco say:

"The death of Mr Evans at Northland Region Corrections Facility is subject to a Coroner's inquest.  It is absolutely inappropriate to prejudge the outcome of the inquest, or to disclose confidential medical information that is protected under the Privacy Act.

Neither we, nor the Department have received any reports on this alleged practice of 'dropping' prisoners from an upper level balcony. If anyone believes that it is happening they must report it to the proper authorities.

If such a practice was occurring, we would expect prisoners to be admitted to hospital on a regular basis with injuries consistent with a person being dropped from a balcony. We note that there have been no such hospital admissions.

All of the issues raised by the allegations are subject to independent investigation by the proper authorities. The appropriate thing to do at this point is to wait for a thorough assessment to be made on the basis of evidence and fact."

Serco is a global service company which carries out management of Mt Eden and Auckland South Correction facility. 

Māori make up 51% of the total prison population.  Jones says the current rehabilitation programmes being run in New Zealand Prisons are just not working.

“The government says that they have the Māori programmes and teaching them to the prisoners to rehabilitate them.  In my opinion they have no depth.  Those programmes don't hold the essence of the identity of our ancestors,” says Jones.

Jones is now calling on iwi leaders to intervene in the rehabilitation process with Māori in prisons.

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