Let mana grow
Nov 24, 2009
New Zealand and the US bear some resemblance as big-time human lock-ups. The US is world leader in incarceration and New Zealand is in the top quartile. New Zealand is the 125th most populated country in the world out of 258, yet the 57th most incarcerated. This gives new meaning to the cliché “punching above our weight.” I outlined three things New Zealand could offer to the US in this area: learnings about our system of restorative justice (with its emphasis on “repairing the harm”), our Maori-Pakeha experience of biculturalism, and an appreciation of the development of mana, that special Maori concept denoting personal bearing, presence, and character.
....A few days later Roy Ferguson, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, sent me an email with a story that underlines a more inclusive approach to accountability. A couple of years ago the organization American Humane gave an award to New Zealand for what they called "New Zealand's gift to humanity." This was for the Family Group Conference System of justice. Roy received the award on behalf of New Zealand along with our Chief Social Worker and the Chief of our Family Court.
New Zealand first introduced this system into legislation around 1988 and it is now regularly used when teenagers get into trouble to see whether the extended family can take action rather than use the criminal justice system. It has been adopted by about 20 countries around the world and about 30 or so States in the US.
Roy said how moving it was, after the President of American Humane had made a presentation, to have a Chief from the Lakota tribe of North Dakota come up and present Roy’s delegation with blankets. This was to show their gratitude for the fact that introducing family group conferences on to their Reservation had prevented a number of their young people going off to jail. A great example of how sharing ideas can make the world a better place for everyone.