Envisaging a solution-focused criminal justice system

Re-imagining a different future for people experiencing mental distress and/or addiction in our criminal justice system

About the project

Many people who experience mental distress or addiction continue to flood into the criminal justice system. Treatment options are often lacking, inadequate or inappropriate. This project will develop comprehensive recommendations for innovations, including policy and legal implications, across the court, health and social care systems.

The Borrin Foundation grant will enable the team to take a whole-of-system(s) approach, focusing on:  

  • How existing limited pockets of court innovation that use a solution-focused approach to facilitate rehabilitation and prevent further offending can be widely applied and supplemented by relevant local community-based strategies. 
  • Preventative solutions to reduce the number of people who experience mental distress and addictions becoming entangled in the justice system. This will include analysis of contemporary drug law reform and the Government’s Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry findings to strategise ‘health’ responses to drug-related crime.  
  • Approaches to support reintegration following the completion of prison sentences, recognising the strong need for diverse health, social and cultural supports to gain a sense of belonging.  

A co-production methodology will be used, which means the team will work with people closest to the problem – those with lived experience of the justice system and communities who support solution-focused 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.    

“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 Katey Thom and Stella Black

Grant amount

$454,580 over 2019-2021 (three years).

About the research team

The research is a foundational project of the Centre for Non-Adversarial Justice [https://naj.aut.ac.nz/] at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and supported by the Hoani Waititi marae whānau, led by Shane White (Ngāti Tara Tawhaki Tokonui, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Raukawa) and Elaine Ngamu (Ngāti Porou), working across these spaces. Other members of the research team includes:

  • Katey Thom (Social Justice Researcher, AUT)
  • Warren Brookbanks (Professor of Law, AUT)  
  • Brian McKenna (Professor of Forensic Mental Health, AUT)
  • Khylee Quince (Ngāpuhi, Associate Professor of Law, AUT)
  • Daniel Exeter (Associate Professor of Spatial Epidemiology)
  • Stella Black (Tūhoe, Māori Researcher, University of Auckland)
  • Dave Burnside (Consumer Advisor, Odyssey House)
  • Tracy Cannon (Consumer Advisor, Waitemata DHB)
  • Jeremy Tumoana (Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou and Tuhoe, Māori lived experience researcher)
  • Jason Haitana (Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi,Consumer Advisor, Northland District Health Board)
  • Jess Hastings (JustSpeak coordinator and lived experience researcher)
  • Martin Burke (Clinical Lecturer/Experiential, National Addictions Centre, University of Otago)
  • Debra Lampshire (Lived experience researcher and Professional Teaching Fellow, University of Auckland)
  • Rob Tua (Ngāpuhi, Te Atiawa, Case Manager, Higher Ground)
  • Thomas White (Peer Support Manager, Odyssey House).  

E kore e taea e te whenua kōtahi
Ki te rarangi te whāriki
Kia mōhio ai tātou ki a tātou
Ma te mahi tahi o ngā whenu
Ma te mahi tahi o ngā kairaranga
Ka oti tenei mahi
I te otinga
Me tītiro tātou ki ngā mea pai
Ka puta mai
A tana wa, me tītiro hoki
Ki ngā raranga i mākere nā te mea,
He kōrero anō kei reira

The tapestry of understanding cannot be
created by one strand alone
It is only by the weaving together of the
strands and of the weavers
That such a tapestry can be completed.
And when it is completed, let us look at
the good that comes from it.
And let us also look at the dropped
stitches, where there is also a message

Contact point

Katey Thom, Lead Researcher (See: https://www.aut.ac.nz/profiles/katey-thom)

Stella Black (Tuhoe), Project Manager