: Politicians crack down on young people instead of improving youth detention

Politicians crack down on young people instead of improving youth detention

Robert Corr

n recent months, a number of riots involving detainees at the two Youth Justice Centres in Parkville and Malmsbury have caused significant property damage, leading to tabloid media outrage and a predictable political response.

The government immediately responded to the Malmsbury incident by announcing an additional 41 staff would be employed to ‘crack down on violent young offenders’.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy upped the ante, telling talkback radio, ‘Some of those people need to be in an adult prison. They should not be held in a youth detention facility’.

The government agreed to consider this idea. Police Minister Lisa Neville told The Age there were more than 550 young people for whom ‘normal interventions’ aren’t working, and who may need to be transferred to adult prison.

After another incident at Parkville, the Minister announced that the centre would be closed and renovated, and that an unspecified number of its residents would be transferred immediately to adult prisons.

The political response appears to avoid addressing the underlying cause of the unrest. The Community and Public Sector Union, whose members work in the centre, suggested the riot was a result of the conditions of detention.

Spokesman Julian Kennelly said, ‘the department is double bunking them and the conditions they’re being housed in are adding to the aggravation of a young offender. They are breaking through and getting on the roof and are trashing their unit in disgust.’

In the wake of the Don Dale scandal in the Northern Territory, the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, is conducting an inquiry into ‘the use of isolation, separation and lockdowns in youth justice centres’.

The investigation was prompted by reports that children were being held in solitary confinement for periods up to ten days, that rolling lockdowns were being implemented without formal regulation, and that a child’s limb was broken while being restrained by staff.

In 2013, the Victorian Ombudsman reported on transfers of young people to adult prisons, and concluded, ‘It is important that the youth justice system respond appropriately to these children rather than abrogate its responsibility by transferring them to the adult system. I am of the view that there are no circumstances that justify the placement of a child in the adult prison system.’

ROBERT CORR is a Legal Studies teacher at the 
Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 289
You are here: Home News & Views DownUnderAllOver DUAO - Vol 41(4) Politicians crack down on young people instead of improving youth detention

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