Extensive work in the criminal justice space by many has revealed that the systems – as they currently operate – cause harm. That’s why a group of independent organisations have created Aotearoa Justice Watch, a new platform for people with lived experience to share their stories.
With continued reports of serious human rights concerns across Aotearoa New Zealand’s policing and prisons, it’s clear that the voices of those most affected are not always being heard.
Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand’s Campaigns Director Lisa Woods said, “There are critical issues across the prison system, including in key oversight structures which ought to be able to be relied on to ensure human rights are being upheld. This includes the complaints system. For those who have had problematic experiences in prisons, we know that when some have reached out they have not had their complaint properly heard and addressed. If this were the case, the system would have fixed itself. We hope Aotearoa Justice Watch can help shine a light on what’s going wrong in order to help the many people out there pushing for change.”
Dr Andrew Hubbard from Citizen’s Advice Bureau said, “At Citizens Advice Bureau we regularly hear from clients who are concerned about the way they have been treated by police and the prison system. We also know that many voices of those in the system often go unheard, or that they are too afraid to speak out about the way they have been treated. We tautoko the work of Aotearoa Justice Watch in trying to get a picture of how our justice system is working, where it is not, and how it could be better for everyone.”
The New Zealand Council for Civil LibertiesChairperson Thomas Beagle said, “The Council believes in protecting the rights and liberties of all people. The justice system is where the power of the state is the sharpest, and anywhere power is used you can be sure to find that it is misused too. We welcome initiatives such as the Aotearoa Justice Watch project to locate and describe abuses of power so that areas for improvement may be identified.”
JustSpeak Executive Director Aphiphany Taua-Forward believes Aotearoa Justice Watch will be a powerful tool for change. “The changes we want to see in policing and prisons must be informed by the people most affected by these institutions. Aotearoa Justice Watch offers people a way to join together and have their voices heard collectively. The information people share will help paint a fuller picture of the issues within these systems – issues which are often hidden or glossed over in official reporting. Empowering people to advocate on issues they have first-hand experience of by sharing their experiences is how we can bring real transformative change to the justice system.”
Aotearoa Justice Watch provides people a place to share their stories. Anonymised information on the types of issues people share will be made available so it can be used by everyone helping to advance change. The aim is to increase transparency about what is happening, and use this information to help advocate for positive transformation across the justice sector.
Anyone can make a report at www.aotearoajusticewatch.org.nz and physical forms are available on request.
This fortnight there are Phantom Billstickers across the country letting people know about the new platform. In addition, physical forms and posters will be available at all Citizens Advice Bureau branches nationwide, as well as at libraries across the Auckland and Wellington regions, Hastings and Dunedin.
Experiences reported could range from excessive use of force by the police to not receiving care or representation while in prison. These can come from people in prison, those who have had experiences with Police that felt wrong, prison staff, Police officers, whānau, friends or those who are no longer in prison. Anyone who submits has the option of staying anonymous to protect their privacy.