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Ed Sheeran

Baby grabbing a colonial abuse

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The growing numbers of wāhine Māori in prisons is likely to be one of the main topics for discussion at a Māori criminal justice summit in November.

The summit was demanded by Māori who took part in last month’s national Criminal Justice Summit in Porirua, and felt it struggled to address issues of particular concern to Maori.

Lawyer Moana Jackson, who attended a planning hui for the summit in Auckland last week, says quick action is needed on rolling back some bail and remand changes made by the previous National Government, which have had a disproportionately negative effect of Māori.

It will also challenge a system that continues to affect Maori from birth, such as the way Oranga Tamariki preemptively take babies because they consider the mothers to be a risk.

"Mums are imprisoned while they are pregnant. Some give birth in prison and keep their babies until a certain age when they are taken away from them because they are 'bad mums' in prison, and I think that is a gross abuse of colonising power," Mr Jackson says.

He says the justice system has failed to recognise that for every mother or father locked up in prison there are whānau, hapu and iwi affected.

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