Australia’s approach to Juvenile Justice must change

Programs designed to divert young people from offending behaviour and entering juvenile detention can not only be more effective than putting a young person in custody but up to 50 times cheaper to run according to the community service organisation Mission Australia.

Mission Australia says diversionary programs designed to keep young people from re-offending can cut rates by more than half and reduce serious offences by close to two-thirds.

Mission Australia has called on state and territory governments to set targets to reduce the numbers of juveniles in detention and expand the number of successful diversionary programs.

Mission Australia’s spokesperson, Anne Hampshire, said an upturn in the number of young people in custody, high levels of recidivism and the significant cost of locking young people up highlighted the need for alternatives to addressing offending behaviour.

“Around 13,000 young people go through state/territory juvenile justice systems every year. Nearly 1000 young Australians are in detention on any day and numbers are at a four-year high,” said Ms Hampshire.

“While only 5% of Australia’s 10-17 year olds are aboriginal they make up 40% of all young people in the nation’s juvenile justice systems.
“Putting young offenders in custody is both expensive and ineffective. More than half released from detention will re-offend. Detention also intensifies the need for greater support post-release.

“And when you look at the population of juveniles in custody, almost half report some form of serious abuse in their past, including violence and neglect. Do we really think detaining a young person with that sort of background is an appropriate response to their problem?

“These are hardly good outcomes. They’re even worse when you consider how much we pay for the privilege.

“For example, in NSW it costs in excess of $150,000 to keep a juvenile in custody for 12 months.

“Mission Australia runs programs around the country that have had an enormous success in keeping young people on the right pathway.

“For example, Pasifika – a program for young people from South Pacific Island backgrounds in Sydney’s south west – has been running since 2005 with strong results.

“Independent analysis of Pasifika shows that in the six months following their referral to the program offence rates among participants were cut by more than half.

“Serious offences – such as assault – were reduced by close to two-thirds.

“Sixty-five per cent of participants had not re-offended within 12 months of program completion.  Read the complete news item




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