Maori Pathways for Prisoners


In New Zealand, 16 % of the population is Māori. But in New Zealand prisons, 50% of prisoners are Māori. This higher percentage is called overrepresentation. This overrepresentation is not because Māori people are bad, but because of difficult circumstances. Most of these circumstances are caused by racism in different forms. For example, poverty causes a high crime rate, but poverty is often caused by racism. Racism in schools may cause children to fail in education, and racist employers may refuse to hire to people they don’t like. These factors all lead to poverty. Police can be racist too, and a police officer may be more likely to arrest someone he or she doesn’t like.

This is not only a problem for Māori in New Zealand. Aboriginal people in Australia are also overrepresented in prisons, as are Native Americans in Canada and the USA. We can also see this with African Americans in the U.S.A.

The New Zealand government has been trying to fix this problem for a very long time. They have tried to make schools and the police force fairer to Māori, and they have tried to stop racism in employment. Now, the government has released a $98 million program called Māori Pathways to help Māori prisoners and their families. The programme is for Māori men who are under 30 years old and have sentences between two and five years long. This is a group that is very likely to get into trouble again after they get out of prison.

The programme will include many services. There will be help with finding a place to live, mental health care, and more communication with the families of the prisoners.  

The government hopes that this will cause a change in the number of Maori prisoners, but this may take a long time to work.



racism: a dislike for people because of their race

poverty: the state of being poor, not having enough money

hire: give someone a job, pay someone to work for you

arrest: If a police officer forces you to go to prison, he/she arrests you

sentence: When a judge in a court says that you have to go to prison for 1 year, we say that your sentence is one year. A sentence is the amount of time that you have to go to prison for.

likely to: if there is a high chance of something happening, it is likely to happen. If the sky is full of dark clouds, it is likely to rain.

Listen again:


This video has difficult language, but the meaning is still clear.