Former Minister for Maori Affairs Dover Samuels says don't rely on whanau to help Maori prison inmates turn a corner because often home is where they learned to be criminals.

He said the call for greater whanau involvement in inmates' rehabilitation was "culturally correct claptrap".

Mr Samuels said boot camp would do a better job of straightening up Maori early in the offending cycle rather than "spoonfeeding young people who have been disconnected from family values because sometimes their whanau don't have decent values themselves."

He was responding to Labour's Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis's suggestion for more whanau engagement during the rehabilitation of Maori inmates.


Both men were referring to the Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Crown and Disproportionate Reoffending Rates released last week, which said Department of Corrections did nothing to help reduce the high number of Maori incarceration or reoffending.

Corrections failed to keep Maori from a "destructive cycle" of re-imprisonment, the Tribunal said.

Mr Samuels described that as "culturally correct claptrap".

"It's blaming the Corrections Department, when Corrections is doing its job once the criminals get into prison. It's the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff again."

Mr Samuels said what was needed "was a quantum cultural shift and a lot of courage, supported by multi-agencies, and the expectation that all that taxpayer spending will result in some return to society."

"Probably most of these families receive some kind of benefit from the taxpayer. These people have to give something back and I don't mean paying back the money, but engaging with society, contributing.

"Taking half of those men out of Ngawha and putting them in a disciplined situation where they had trade training as well, that's engagement.

"While I support and acknowledge Kelvin Davis for his efforts, that's been tried before.

"The root of this can only be changed in their home environments when there's a turnaround in the values and expectations of that environment too."

Mr Davis said MPs from all parties "need to sit down and say 'what are we going to do, regardless of who's in government, to reduce the prison population'?"

"[If] we throw them in there and if we mistreat them we think that by making conditions really harsh in there that they're going to come out better people - well then we're mistaken," he said.

Around 10,000 Maori children have a parent in prison, and although making up 15 per cent of New Zealand's population, more than 5000 of the country's 10,000 prison inmates are Maori.