By John Tamihere

As we sit in our community endeavouring to attack the causes of crime, we note that far too many are funded to manage the criminal justice system and not fix it.

What we see is a huge fishing industry, where the catch of the day is devoured by a system that feasts on failure.

Unless the drivers of crime are assessed and addressed, we will continue to drift net our people, while allowing gangs and organised crime to trawl our communities.


Police man all the fishing boats. Out go the squad cars, out go the investigators to drop their nets far and wide. Officers then sift through the shoals of fish, picking out the bigger or worse ones. Once they have those in their nets, they bring them on board the boats. That boat arrives in the harbour and the haul is then handed to a rating and processing facility called the courts.

The courts determine whether the little fish go to the canneries, while the bigger catch go directly to fish shops and or restaurants. In effect the courts process the catch, which is then directed into a number of prison facilities or sanctions. Those sanctions can be anything from community service to life behind bars — depending on the size of the fish.

The reality is the criminal justice system does not, cannot and ultimately will not fix criminality.

The Corrections Department is in fact one of the biggest recruitment agencies for organised crime and gangs known to mankind. To survive in correctional facilities, it's almost mandatory for anyone jailed for more than two years to join a gang.

We must stop the traffic and the log jams that are building and heading towards incarceration.

In prisons, gangs protect one another and when an inmate has completed his lag and released back into society, their obligations, duties and responsibilities are owed to the gang — even after leaving prison. Not only are organised crime gangs owed duties and responsibilities, but inmates are exited back into society with limited money in their pocket, and with few resources to make a successful break from organised crime and the gang culture.

The Ministry of Corrections is there to act as a punitive ministry. Its main job is to manage its hotels and we can't build enough of them. If I had shares in the Corrections Department, those shares would be going through the roof because Corrections is not about breaking repeat offending — they are about achieving full bed nights.

When we endeavour to work with Corrections — because we know the inmates, know their communities and know their families — we have been locked out of the system.

We need to get pre-release profiles, so that we can counsel the inmate in the prison and the family on the outside. Often their partner and children have moved on with their life, because they just have to. And often, the only driver to change for the inmate is the thought that his or her partner and children, are waiting for the perfect daddy to return home.


Chances are there's no job waiting when they leave prison. You add rejection, hopelessness, a lack of resources and education to this person and you have a Molotov cocktail about to explode and the blast enough to push them back to organised crime.

Fact is, the Corrections Ministry should not have any say in alcohol, drug, health, education and training programmes that are run in prisons. The Corrections culture and conduct is about punishment, and they should be corralled solely to that.

Furthermore, we must stop the traffic and the log jams that are building and heading towards incarceration. Better co-ordination and integration on the street counts.

It also seems as crude, and as blunt to us out on the street that regardless of what you call the Children and Young Persons Service, or Vulnerable Children's agency or the new native name — whatever it is — they take children from care and protection, promote them to youth justice, then promote them into the incarcerated adult criminal population.

Legions of bureaucrats, social workers and the like will be well employed in managing this unstoppable conveyer belt because they are all rewarded by managing a failing system rather than fixing it.

It is so easy for a government and bureaucrats to say "it's the dumb Māoris or the white trash's problem" because when the lowest common denominators in our societies fail, it is always their fault but never the blame of those paid handsomely to fix them.