Māori and Romani and Juvenile Justice – Approaches and Responses from Different Justice Systems

Takacs, Bence
Buttle, John
Webb, Robert
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Discrimination and over-representation of certain ethnic groups in the criminal justice system is a substantial social problem throughout Europe and in New Zealand. The study concentrates on the challenge of Māori and Romani over-representation in the youth justice systems and on access to justice in Hungary and New Zealand. Criminological research on Romani is scarce in contemporary Hungarian science. This academic deficiency was an important motivation for the research.

The aim of the comparative analysis was to gain understandings of the social aspects of how and why crime rates vary, and how the agents, structures and processes of responding to crime operate in culturally grounded contexts. In addition, both countries’ historical and current youth justice systems are presented and critically examined. The thesis encompassed the scrutiny of minority-majority relations; it focused on lessons that can be drawn from the respective social and criminal policy experiences through the lens of comparative criminology. This investigation has utilised a combination of grounded theory and critical ethnographic methodology, combining a number of in-depth (interviews, observations, documentary research) qualitative approaches. It is an interdisciplinary study (situated where criminal law, criminology, social history and political science meet), which applied an integrated critical and zemiologist approach. It explores systemic factors affecting attitudes towards alternatives to conventional criminal justice among policymakers, juvenile justice and ethnic minority stakeholders. By investigating both general and ethnic-specific community-based crime prevention and reintegration models, the research fills a gap left by previous research. However, it remains a significant issue that state players strenuously resist acknowledging the possibility of their own corruption by ethnicity-related factors.

The research output suggests that culture- and colour-conscious policies and community-based approaches and institutions can have a greater cultural understanding both within organisations and when working with the public, and that they can reduce discriminative attitudes and socioeconomic inequities through empowerment and dialogue. Moreover, they have the capability to be more efficient in responding to deviancy than the conventional, punitive approach. Crime prevention and juvenile justice programmes that incorporate specific aspects of cultural values and principles and the special needs of offenders are likely to be more efficient at changing offending behaviour than culturally neutral programmes.

Finally, the study finds that the current, inappropriate, usage of the youth justice system disproportionately affects underprivileged Romani and Māori communities and serves, to varying degrees, as an instrumental component of a systematic social exclusion.

Māori , Romani , Comparative criminology , Critical criminology , Zemiology , Youth crime , juvenile justice , Community justice , Over-representation , Discrimination
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