November 08, 2021
Prison trauma harming communities
An advocate for prison reform the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement at Auckland Women’s Prison shows a failure to address long-standing issues.
A report by the independent Prison Inspectorate found the number of times pepper spray was used at the prison was exceeded by only one men’s prison.
Awatea Mita says her own stretch in prison for non-violent drug offences woke her up to the reality behind the numbers that 65 percent of women in prison are Māori.
She says Corrections acknowledges women in prison are vulnerable but then fails to treat them with respect, despite repeated warnings and reports.
“These harsher punishments are being enforced on our women unnecessarily. It produces more trauma in their lives and that can follow them when they leave the prison and that goes back to families and in this way whole communities are affected,” Ms Mita says.
Awatea Mita says the answers lie in Māori culture, which treated crime and disorder not as an individual problem but one requiring the whole family and community to be involved in restoring balance.