Toitū te Mana Rangatahi: Marae-Based Youth Courts: Negotiating Pathways for Rangatahi Offending
The Aotearoa/New Zealand Government has a disposition to spend tax payer's money on prisons. The way in which our current legal system is structured, subsequent Governments are going to have to do the same. Māori make up a disproportionate number of those in prison. Recent times have seen the establishment of an initiative aimed at reducing youth crime rates such as Restorative Justice and Marae-Based Youth Courts (MBYC). This study explores how well these new initiatives offered by the youth justice system provide for the needs of youth and community. The specific aim of this study is to analyse the MBYC from the perspective of rangatahi, lay advocates and Kaumātua (honoured elders). The purpose of this is to better understand the processes that rangatahi (Māori youth) went through when they came into contact with the criminal justice system and how cultural philosophies may better inform this process, so that improved outcomes may be achieved for these rangatahi. This research was conducted under a Kaupapa Māori methodology. A series of 3 individual interviews and 3 focus group interviews were conducted (participant total 11) with the three demographic groups. Interviews were later transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Four major themes were identified from the analysis. These were; Tā te ture ki te Rangatahi (law as it pertains to the rangatahi), whakamā, Te Wairuatanga o te Marae (the spirituality of the Marae) and Potentiality of the Lay Advocate Role. All four major themes had a set of subordinate themes directly related to them. It was found that the adversarial nature of the youth justice system was having a negative impact on rangatahi and was inhibiting their ability to experience the feelings of remorse and accountability that the process is designed to induce. The restorative justice parts of the system showed more promise but were also falling short of the outcomes they set for themselves. Encouraging results were seen in relation to the MBYC. However, the transplanting of the adversarial court system on to the marae warranted concerns over the domination of this institution over the marae.