An advocate for fair outcomes in the justice penal system has suggested bailing offenders to half a dozen marae in Northland as a way to alleviate a "crisis".
Spokeswoman Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams, of the Sir Peter Williams QC Penal Reform League, said currently people arrested on charges who would typically be bailed - such as first offenders and 18-year-olds - were being held in Auckland prisons because there was no accommodation available.
But Lady Heeni said yesterday Northland marae could put up temporary 6-10 bedroom-type accommodation to ease bail application problems.
She said those arrested and unable to obtain bail elsewhere could stay at marae, where marae could provide wraparound-type services while those granted bail to the marae could assist around the marae.
Lady Heeni said it was an idea she had this week after speaking with her sister, who was on the Pipiwai Marae committee, and a lawyer who had worked over the busy Christmas period when it was difficult to get suitable bail addresses for some offenders.
She was relying on anecdotal evidence but said there were people sitting in police cells and jail because they could not find a suitable bail address.
"By using marae it would be a 'win-win' situation. The marae need some money and then this can be quickly sorted out."
Those on bail could carry out maintenance work such as painting, cleaning out spouting, mowing lawns and fitting light bulbs.
She said marae such as Pipiwai, Motatau, Karetu, Waikare, Otiria, Ngararatunua in the north could all do with assistance from able-bodied newly bailed defendants.
"There is a real crisis and tribal groups have to help out," she said.
"Our league has supported bail houses in every shape and form for decades but politicians typically fail to listen ... now it's at crisis point."
Lady Heeni said people before the courts in Auckland and Northland were often unable to get bail due to the housing crisis.
League lawyers applying for bail on behalf of clients at Manukau, Auckland and Northland during the Christmas period had bail applications turned down because electronic bail did not operate in rural areas or alternative addresses were difficult to find.
"After speaking with marae personnel in the north - and being informed that some marae require urgent assistance and another could even close up if it doesn't get help from the young ones – this is an idea that must be put into action immediately and one for the Minister of Corrections and Justice Minister to get on with immediately.
"I'm putting forward an idea that will resolve these issues. I can't do everything ... the marae can do the mahi."