Gender Inequality and Discrimination within Aotearoa New Zealand’s Criminal Justice System: Some Professional Support Workers’ Perspectives
Sustainable Development Goal number five, ‘Gender Equality’ aims to achieve gender equality for all women and girls by eliminating discrimination (The United Nations, 2015a). Despite this goal, gender equality remains one of the most widespread inequalities internationally and within Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ). Gender inequality is evident within ANZ’s criminal justice system (CJS), and this contributes to development inequalities within ANZ society. Understanding the cycle of carceral entrapment can inform more sensitive approaches to ending discrimination against women and girls and lead to more gender-equitable outcomes.
Although female-focused prison research is increasing, there remains limited literature on women’s experiences within the CJS (Gibson, 2022; Kale, 2020). Furthermore, very few studies focus on the perspectives of professionals working with incarcerated women and/or women who have been released. These workers hold insights from their years of close association with women navigating the carceral continuum. In response to this gap, this thesis draws from the experiences of these professional support workers to answer the overarching research question, “How does Aotearoa New Zealand’s criminal justice system operate to reduce discrimination, in alignment with good development policy and practice?”
To answer this question, a feminist geopolitical approach was used. Primary data was generated through storytelling interviews with eleven professional support workers around ANZ. Interviews explored what the professional support workers understood of women’s experiences within the carceral continuum and how they understood these to be related to gendered and racialised inequalities. Findings reveal that discrimination is apparent at every stage of a woman’s journey through the CJS. Dominant narratives, power imbalances and control, are key factors prohibiting ANZ’s CJS from being more gender equal.
This study shows that ANZ’s CJS could learn from international development policies and practices to better respond to gendered inequalities and reduce discrimination.