An AUT project aiming to reimagine a different future for people experiencing mental distress and/or addiction in the criminal justice system is among this year’s Borrin Foundation recipients.
Established through a $38 million bequest by the late Judge Ian Borrin to fund legal research, education, and scholarship, The Borrin Foundation is funding the multi-year research project as part of its commitment to making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders. The research team, which includes AUT Law School academics Professor Warren Brookbanks, Associate Professor Khylee Quince, and Dr Katey Thom, will produce recommendations for the development and implementation of innovations across the court system, including the policy and legal implications.
“Justice innovation occurs in pockets within the court system to facilitate rehabilitation and prevent further offending. We want to look beyond these small-scale alternatives and advance mainstream court innovation, as well as diverse community-based strategies outside courts,” says Dr Katey Thom.
It costs the country around $1 billion each year – and rising – to keep people in prison. Māori are over-represented in the prison population, making up half of those imprisoned, with 40% in jail for drug offences.
“Research tells us the majority of prisoners have experienced mental distress or addiction within their lifetime but often end up in the ‘too hard basket’. We aim to reject this basket, replacing it with a diverse array of kete (baskets) filled with localised mātauranga (knowledge), strategies and solutions to improve wellbeing and reduce reoffending. We hope the findings can inform current mental health, addictions and justice reform," Dr Thom says.
This research is a foundation project for the Centre for Non-Adversarial Justice at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). A co-production methodology will be used, which means the team includes people closest to the problem – those with lived experience of the justice system and communities who support community-based innovation – to produce solutions. Wider experiences of going through the justice system while in mental distress will be sought through interviews. This will be supplemented by statistical analysis and systematic reviews of international innovation.
The AUT Centre for Non-Adversarial Justice was established in 2016 to identify and promote various models of justice under the broad banner of non-adversarial justice. Theories of non-adversarial justice arise from many different but interconnected law-related disciplines that offer different approaches to legal problem-solving. They include restorative justice, collaborative law, therapeutic jurisprudence, alternative dispute resolution, problem-solving courts and procedural justice. Working within the framework of these and other ‘alternative’ models of justice, the Centre aims to facilitate research and dialogue and to assist with legal education and to articulate new ways of envisioning the relationship between law and various aspects of society.