(Dis-) Empowering Offenders of Māori Descent Through Restorative Justice

Kingi, Ariana
Deckert, Antje
Henry, Ella
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Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this study is to explore whether restorative justice (RJ) has the capacity to empower (or disempower) offenders of Māori descent in the eyes of currently practising restorative justice facilitators. The following three research questions were used to fulfil the purpose of the study: How does the concept of empowerment fit into the paradigm of restorative justice in New Zealand from the perspective of currently practising restorative justice facilitators? How do restorative justice processes enable the empowerment of adult Māori offenders in the eyes of currently practising restorative justice facilitators? What common observable characteristics in adult Māori offenders suggest to currently practising restorative justice facilitators that these offenders feel empowered through restorative justice processes? This study is grounded in Te Ao Māori, Mātauranga Māori, Kaupapa Māori and Tikanga Māori, to ensure the nature of this research is reflective of the sentiment ‘For Māori, by Māori, with Māori’. Additionally, the theoretical frameworks of empowerment theory, desistance theory and reintegrative shaming theory and the conceptual framework of restorative justice were adopted to guide and inform this research. This study highlights how the implementation of these frameworks can facilitate a deeper understanding of restorative justice processes’ capacity to empower Māori offenders. A qualitative, exploratory approach was utilised. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four currently practising restorative justice facilitators in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2016. Purposeful snowball sampling was used to identify participants through the researcher’s personal and academic networks. The participants represent a small sample, consisting of four currently practising restorative justice facilitators situated in New Zealand. A general inductive approach was adopted for the data analysis to identify patterns and themes in the interview narratives. This study found, that while all participants acknowledged that empowerment is an important component of restorative justice, there was no consensus regarding the definition of empowerment. Nevertheless, the findings corroborate the current literature, which suggests that restorative justice enables feelings of empowerment, by giving offenders the opportunity to participate and have a conversation with their victims. However, the findings also indicate a lack of consensus in regards to the concept of disempowerment, which in turn, could affect the way in which RJ facilitators assess disempowerment in adult Māori offenders. Lastly, this study found that participation, accountability, willingness to repair harm and offenders narrating a redemption script are offender characteristics which suggest to RJ facilitators that offenders felt empowered through the RJ process. This thesis contributes to the RJ literature in New Zealand with a specific focus on the empowerment of Māori offenders from the perspective of four currently practising RJ facilitators. Its findings highlight the need for further research to clarify the definition and meaning of empowerment within restorative justice and its implementation into practice. The findings also suggest that further research is required to explore the meaning and effect of feelings of empowerment caused by restorative justice processes from the perspective of Māori offenders. Most importantly, this study indicates that future research should pay more attention to pre-conference consultations between facilitators and offenders and their potential to initiate shifts from condemnation to redemption script in adult Māori offenders.

Restorative Justice , Māori , Offenders , Empowerment
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