Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says that Māori must lead the change in the criminal justice system.
Mr. Davis made the remarks during the Criminal Justice Summit today.
Hundreds have packed the Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua for the event, which lasts until tomorrow night.
Ex-prisoners joined academics, counselors and chief executives, participated in the same "break-out" sessions – called & # 39; lived facts & # 39 ;, & # 39; aspiration & # 39 ;, & # 39; reflection & # 39 ;, & # 39; a call to action & # 39 ;.
The Corrections and Crown-Māori Relations Minister started this afternoon with one of these sessions with stories about his youth.
"I had whānau in prison, I grew up in a street where several people lived there, they were my friends, I built huts with them, swam in the floods and played in the paddocks.
"That is no excuse for the violations these people have committed – but something needs to be done to reduce the scale of this problem and the enormous waste of human resources."
He said that while about 16 percent of the country's population is Māori, they make up 51 percent of the prison population.
And it's worse for women: Māori makes almost two-thirds of the women in prison.
He referred to his tribe Ngapuhi and said that they are probably the most imprisoned tribe in the world, per capita.
"There is a massive call for things that make Māori and Māori-led things happen in prisons, whether it becomes a whole prison or not … A lot of things happen in prisons around Māori Tikanga," he said.
Davis said that this is the top and why everyone was in these sessions today – to work out these things.
Participant Jacob Leo Skilling, who was in and out of prison, said he chose to change because of his daughter.
He is now a motivating speaker and was asked to come to the top by the Ministry of Justice.
"It seems that every generation gets worse, so if we can now start with the next generation, and they make a change, the next generation will follow that example.
"Then detention numbers will decrease, recidivism and recidivism will decrease, as will all the bad things that happen in our country."
The General Director of the Department of Justice, Andrew Bridgeman, said the officials listen.
"We know that the only way to get a grip is to listen to those people who have experienced the system and have an idea of how the system can change.
"We will not know that by being isolated in Wellington – that will never work."
National government spokesman Mark Mitchell agrees that Māori has a big role to play if the country really wants to change direction.
"I agree, I think Māori and Iwi must take responsibility in terms of stepping up and saying" yes, we have major social problems. "
"How can we work with the government, agencies and the broader, wider community to actually influence real changes in the lives of these people?"
But he was not sure what he meant as the giant & # 39; counseling session & # 39; this week, which would influence change.
"They have many people here with a lot of knowledge, who have just been placed in a very unfocused environment, where it is very unclear what will actually happen on the other side of the world."