'Stuff the transactional shit’: Learning through the lived experience of the Rangatahi Court

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Master of Criminal Justice
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Jessep, Melissa Jane

Criminal justice initiatives and policy have been guided almost exclusively by a Pākehā worldview. The exclusion of Māori perspectives within the realm of justice is just another example of the reach the colonial project continues to have on Māori communities. The exclusion of Māori influence in the justice space could be attributed to the negative justice outcomes that we continue to see for Māori. Disproportionate use of imprisonment and wider disparities within justice institutions sees Māori making up 52.7% of prison population while only making up 15% of the general population (Department of Corrections, 2021). Rangatahi Māori have also felt the brunt of the justice system making up 59% of court participants (Ministry of Justice, 2021). These statistics continue to remain unchanged despite awareness of this problem. In 2008 the Rangatahi Courts were established to alter the way in which the Youth Courts interacted with young Māori. The implementation of the Rangatahi Courts can be viewed as a push-back to the Eurocentric processes that dominate the justice space. Since the inception of these courts little research has been generated that offers authentic insight into the realities of these courts. Initial evaluations have suggested that these courts have potential to reduce reoffending rates and alter the way rangatahi and whānau view and experience the system. Much of the academic perspectives have brought vital critique and insight into the Rangatahi Courts procedures. However, there is limited research that explores the experiences and lived reality of those that work within the space of the Rangatahi Courts. For this reason, the intent of this research project was to showcase the experiences of the participants’ who have engaged within that world. Their lived experience of the Rangatahi Court is important for creating an understanding of what the Rangatahi Courts provide Māori. This research privileges practitioner experiences as they hold crucial knowledge that may help to build a greater understanding as to how these courts operate and what the space offers for rangatahi and whānau.

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