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Good, but not good enough!

by PeakCare Qld on 24th June 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> June -> Good, but not good enough!

PeakCare welcomes changes to Youth Justice laws passed by Parliament last week. These changes include, amongst others, the re-introduction of youth justice conferencing, the abandonment of boot camp orders, removal of the provision for findings of guilt for a childhood offence when no conviction is recorded to be admissible in court when later sentencing the person for an adult offence, the reinstatement of the ‘detention as a last resort’ principle and overturning of the automatic transfer of young people from youth detention centres to adult prisons upon turning 17 years of age. But do these changes go far enough? Unfortunately, the answer is no!

Given that many young people who encounter the youth justice system have a current or previous involvement with child protection, PeakCare has a strong interest in youth justice policy. This relates especially to young people who are subject to dual (interim or finalised) orders.

The glaring omission from the suite of changes made to Youth Justice laws last week concerns the failure to cease the practice of 17 year old children being incarcerated in adult prisons, either on remand or sentence. It is difficult to comprehend why, when 17 year old young people are in care and the State is, in effect, exercising similar responsibilities to those usually performed by parents, the State is not horrified by the prospect of its children entering an adult jail – as most good parents would be.

Given the gross over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in both the child protection and youth justice systems, PeakCare is especially concerned about the impact of potential imprisonment on these young people when they turn 17. Recently, the government released the publication Towards a Queensland action plan for vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. It is commendable that recognition of the deleterious impact of high rates of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (within either a youth detention centre or an adult prison) is clearly stated within this publication. If the action plan, upon its development, is to serve as an expression of a whole-of-government commitment and chart a successful way forward that will benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, strategies must be incorporated within it that stop the trajectory of young people in care into the youth justice and adult criminal justice systems. A cessation of the practice of incarcerating children in adult prisons would be a good starting point.

Non-government organisations share this responsibility. In the delivery of their services, they must also utilise practices that actively divert children from having unnecessary involvement with the youth justice system or in instances where this cannot be avoided, assist in diverting them from any unnecessarily prolonged involvement.

Please click on the blog title and then scroll down to comment or email Lindsay Wegener