The Māori Prison Educator
Māori are severely over-represented in the prison population of Aotearoa New Zealand, making up over half of all prisoners, despite being only about 15 percent of the national population. These Māori statistics are well known to the general population, and tend to add to racist perceptions of Māori in general. There is substantial literature on Māori imprisonment to be found within criminology and related fields, but it mostly focuses on ‘fixing’ the prisoner. There is very little existing research on the experiences of those who work in prisons, and little if any research on the experiences of Māori educators working in prisons.
The question of working as a Māori educator in prison is explored in this dissertation using Kaupapa Māori as a framework that aligns with Māori cultural practices and perspectives. The two sources of data used to investigate the question are, first, collecting information from the literature, and second, writing fictionalised autoethnographic stories based on my experiences as a Māori prison educator.
Prison education focuses on changing behaviours that lead to offending and helping prisoners to gain work and life skills. But security concerns and managing the prison population take precedence and restrict the availability and priority given to education. The recent introduction of the Hōkai Rangi strategy has generated optimism, but has yet to be translated into positive results Efforts are being made to improve the integration of Māori culture in the prisons, but it is unclear how committed the Department of Corrections is to education for Māori prisoners.