PPI Publications & Events

Bridging Cultures in Justice Reform Around the World: Te Maiora Rurehe and PPI

By: Catherine Tran, CLS '25

April 25, 2024

In the landscape of criminal justice reform, the intersection of cultural heritage and advocacy for justice-impacted individuals can play a pivotal role in shaping a more equitable system. Te Maiora Rurehe, a New Zealand Māori lawyer deeply engaged in indigenous rights legal advocacy, has dedicated himself to addressing issues such as the disproportionate incarceration of Māori individuals, systemic biases within the legal system, and the cultural disconnect experienced by indigenous communities. 


As a student at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, Te Maiora is currently studying environmental law and is set to graduate in May 2024. Through spearheading Taiōnuku Ltd. and advocating for a more culturally sensitive approach to incarceration, Te Maiora's mission resonates strongly with our goals at PPI. His connection with PPI Co-Founder Devon Simmons underscores the universality of shared struggles, spanning from New Zealand to the US. These struggles encompass issues such as mass incarceration, racial disparities, and the legacies of colonialism, highlighting the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and solidarity in the pursuit of justice reform.


Te Maiora's journey into legal advocacy began after witnessing the impact of incarceration on a friend and within his indigenous communities. The ethos of Taiōnuku Ltd. centers on a metaphor of “lightning striking on a mountaintop.” This imagery evokes the transformative power of cultural revitalization, symbolizing an emphasis towards rehabilitation and healing after incarceration. Te Maiora's vision for Taiōnuku centers on creating spaces where cultural identity serves as a catalyst for change. Like PPI's mission in promoting reintegration for justice-impacted individuals through economic empowerment, Taiōnuku’s mission focuses on addressing recidivism through a holistic lens by placing individuals in the right circumstances to break the cycle of incarceration and promoting positive societal integration. His research currently centers on producing data to show that cultural initiatives in prison are effective in promoting the health of incarcerated people and lowering recidivism rates. He further envisions this research serving as the foundation for a reimagined justice system around the world.


By integrating indigenous perspectives into the discourse on prison reform, Te Maiora aims to develop an approach that bridges non-western philosophy with historically dominant Western-based frameworks. Moreover, by incorporating these perspectives into environmental and justice issues, we can recognize the diversity of societies and embrace alternative operational frameworks. Nevertheless, Te Maiora describes his ultimate vision as bringing love to prison and incarceration institutions, envisioning a future where individuals are not subjected to prison sentences, but can rather engage in alternative pathways towards healing.


Through incorporating the views and experiences of those directly impacted by incarceration, Taiōnuku seeks to amplify marginalized voices in the quest for justice reform. Through Te Maiora’s ongoing efforts to secure funding and build partnerships with community organizations, he is laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to prison reform—a journey that aligns closely with PPI's commitment to grassroots advocacy and community empowerment for justice-impacted individuals.


In histories marked by systemic injustices and cultural disconnect, Te Maiora's work serves as a beacon of hope for a more just and compassionate legal system. By bridging the gap between indigenous perspectives and mainstream legal advocacy, he is paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable approach to justice. Te Maiora's vision extends beyond national borders, offering valuable insights that can be applied on an international scale. As he continues to advocate for cultural sensitivity in legal advocacy, Te Maiora embodies the spirit of collaboration and empowerment at the heart of PPI's mission.


PPI co-founder, Devon Simmons and PPI student-in-residence, Te Maiora Rurehe.
PPI Communications Team

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