Damien Grant: Prison does not change you – I know from personal experience

Stuff co.nz 26 August 2018
Family First Comment: Mentions our recent report on imprisonment and family structure…
“From the media reports over-representation of Māori in custody was a major focus. There are many reasons given for this. Colonialism. Racism. Poverty. The lack of free-to-air Rugby. A wise person will look beyond race and seek a better explanation. Thankfully we have the dedicated researcher Lindsay Mitchell who has done just that. In a report for Family First published earlier this year she pulls no punches: “A sharp increase in unmarried births during the 1960s correlates markedly with a later rise in the imprisonment rate. Ex-nuptial births made up 79 percent of total Māori births in 2017. For non-Māori, the corresponding figure was 34 percent.””
Read the report – https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/imprisonment-2018/

OPINION: It is hard to go to prison in New Zealand. It took me several attempts but I was finally successful and enjoyed a delightful time touring our penal archipelago in my twenties. Sadly, despite this hands-on insight into the criminal mind, I was not invited to the Justice Summit held in Porirua.

From the media reports over-representation of Māori in custody was a major focus. There are many reasons given for this. Colonialism. Racism. Poverty. The lack of free-to-air Rugby.

A wise person will look beyond race and seek a better explanation. Thankfully we have the dedicated researcher Lindsay Mitchell who has done just that. In a report for Family First published earlier this year she pulls no punches: “A sharp increase in unmarried births during the 1960s correlates markedly with a later rise in the imprisonment rate. Ex-nuptial births made up 79 percent of total Māori births in 2017. For non-Māori, the corresponding figure was 34 percent.”

There are a number of causes of this disruption of the traditional nuclear family. Several government agencies point to the rapid urbanisation of Māori in the post-war period but another reason, affecting all races, has been the expanding availability of welfare that makes being a solo parent economically viable, though not especially comfortable.

Very few people’s fertility decisions are influenced by the economics of welfare, but some are, and a disturbing number of their children end up in prison. Today there are nearly 59,000 people on a sole-parent benefit, 10,000 of them under 24 and almost half of these are Māori.

That’s the cohort where the next generation of prison inmates are coming. Welfare is handed down from parent to child like a poisoned heirloom and nearly 5000 benefits a year are cancelled because the beneficiary is entering prison.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/106531509/a04–damien-grant–

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