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Young crime is often a phase, and locking kids up is counterproductive

Monday 29th of July 2019 | Oceania, Australia
The Conversation
News

Last week, violent riots erupted in the NSW Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre. Several inmates allegedly attacked known sex offenders, and a held a siege on the rooftop lasting nearly 22 hours. In June, officers at the centre walked off the job after a number of violent attacks by detainees.

And on average, 980 young people were in youth detention in Australia every night in the June quarter of 2018. While there has been some fluctuation in this number, there has been an overall increase in the average number of young people in detention per night since 2014.

This crowding and rising tensions have led to an Australia-wide spotlight on youth detention, which began with the 2016 ABC Four Corners investigation, “Australia’s Shame”, on the treatment of young offenders in detention centres in the Northern Territory and, in turn led to a royal commission into Northern Territory’s youth justice system.

Young people in detention often come from unstable backgrounds, their literacy levels are generally very low, they have extensive childhood trauma. On release, their prospects of employment are low. And many young people in custody are known to have experienced some form of childhood trauma, such as neglect, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

But research has shown young people often grow out of their offending behaviours and rejoin their local communities.

It’s time the youth justice system considered alternative community-based models that better recognise the ability for young people to abandon crime.

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

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  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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