Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh

Associate Professor in Sociology

“My area of research is women in prison — particularly Māori women in prison — and also looking at ex-prisoners — and largely there I focus on men who have exited prison, particularly those with gang associations.

“I’m particularly interested in looking at the intergenerational transfer of social inequalities. If we look at our prison situation in New Zealand we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and we also have one of the highest levels of racial disproportionality in the world.

“What this means is that we have this incredible waste of potential. So I’m working with people — who I see as experts of their own condition — to look at the reasons, the drivers for crime and the ways that we can stop that.

“I spend a lot of time in prisons and I work with young people, who in many ways are not very different from the students that I teach at the University of Auckland. What is different is that they have experienced high levels of social harm — often in their very early life — high levels of victimisation, and many of them have then gone on to not only have suffered social harm, but then to perpetrate social harm.

“The loss of potential, the incredible levels of suffering that occurs in whānau and communities and indeed for the nation is something that we need to have a better understanding of so that we can work towards really culturally adaptive solutions.

“I believe that New Zealand can actually show global leadership in this area. We have this ability to really look at social harm. We’ve got a whole range of ways that we can work at it: some people are doing important stuff in the policy realm, others like myself are working much more in the experiential realm.

“I spend a lot of time in prisons, I’ve spent a lot of time with people who are re-integrating back into the community with the huge difficulties that ex-prisoners face, and I work a lot with whanau.

“At the moment in New Zealand 23,000 children have a parent or parents in prison. The intergenerational reach of that type of statistic is incredible.

“As a Māori woman, the fact that our prisons are over-populated, over-represented by largely young Māori men and young Māori women means that I have a really personal interest in it.

“We often think about prisons as being a solution to a crime problem. I think that what my work and the work of many others really strongly suggests is that in many ways the prison is around unequal power relations in society and unequal distribution of the privileges that come in society.

“If we think about social harm, if we think about poverty, if we think about violence, if we think about racism, a focus on social harm and the things that we can do to reduce it is a much better way that we can stop this pipeline into the prison.

“In fact we had a Minister of Corrections who once said that we shouldn’t talk about the prison pipeline, we should recognise that it’s a sewer.”


Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh

School of Social Sciences
+ 64 9 373 7599 ext. 86113


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