A retired probation officer has filed a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal saying the Crown has failed to reduce the number of Maori in prison.
Tom Hemopo said he had the support of two Hawkes Bay iwi entities, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust.
Mr Hemopo, announcing his legal action through law firm Braithwaite & Smail Limited, said half of all men and 63 per cent of all women in prison were Maori.
His claim targets the Department of Corrections and alleges no "high level" commitment has been made to reduce the number of Maori in prison.
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In 2013 Corrections let its Maori Strategic Plan lapse without any consultation with Maori and since then it has had no strategy to address Maori reoffending, Mr Hemopo said.
"I am asking the Tribunal to consider this claim urgently because too many Maori are suffering right now while the Crown ignores its failure to reduce the numbers of Maori in prison and reoffending on release," Mr Hemopo said.
"I hope by hearing this claim urgently, the Tribunal will hold the Crown to account. But more importantly I hope it will challenge the stereotype that there is something about Maori that makes us criminals."
Mr Hemopo said that if the Tribunal agrees to hear the claim as a matter of urgency, iwi groups and expert witnesses will present evidence in the coming months.
In 2004, the Waitangi Tribunal heard another urgent claim from Mr Hemopo, alleging that an assessment system the Corrections Department introduced in 2001 to reduce Maori reoffending has actually entrenched prejudice and discrimination.
He said this claim alleged a much wider, long term failure by the Crown.