Culture, Mental Illness, and Prison: A New Zealand Perspective

  • James CavneyEmail author
  • Susan Hatters Friedman
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


As is true internationally, in New Zealand, cultural minorities are overrepresented in the prison population. Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand (NZ) and are more commonly incarcerated (as are other ethnic minorities such as Pacific Islanders) when compared to Pakeha (NZ Europeans). This chapter will discuss the influence of colonisation and acculturation on these groups, in particular Māori, in order to better understand the relationship of culture on the interface of forensic mental health services and prisons systems. Despite a high prevalence of mental illness in prison, significant barriers exist to providing needed care to this population, related to correctional goals of punishment of offenders and lack of prioritisation of mental health. New Zealand prisons, in collaboration with forensic services, have implemented a mental health screen at prison reception, with specified compulsory referrals to forensic prison teams (whose membership include psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing and cultural advisers). Forensic nurses then assess the need for psychiatric care or alternative services. Both cultural challenges and successes (including cultural healing collaboration with the forensic prison team) are discussed.


Prison Correctional psychiatry Culture Maori Barriers 



The authors would like to thank Mr. Tipene Paul (cultural advisor, Mason Clinic Forensic Prison Team) and the Taumata of Mason Clinic for endorsing the authors to write this chapter and providing cultural oversight and support.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auckland Regional Forensic Psychiatry ServicesAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Case Western UniversityClevelandUSA

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