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Government’s misguided approach to youth justice

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Queensland Law Society said today the focus of the government on legislative change was a misguided approach to youth justice issues.

Responding to the government’s Safer streets crime action plan, president Annette Bradfield said there were a number of proposals raised that would continue the cycle of youth crime rather than rehabilitate offenders.

“It is not about reducing the number of young people committing crimes, as the Childrens Court of Queensland’s figures show this is in decline, it is about addressing the issue of persistent offenders charged with multiple offences,” Ms Bradfield said.

“It is ineffective to try to address this issue by radically reforming youth justice legislation as this affects all children and young people coming into contact with the system.

”We recommend employing non-legislative strategies which focus on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism for this small group of young people.

“The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian have reported that around one in seven children in youth detention had experienced homelessness, while approximately one in five reported times when they had no money for food or other basic things.

“Given the high rates of young people in detention on remand, there is a need for more programs that can help a young person comply with bail conditions, whether by sourcing accommodation, or supporting young people to remain engaged with education.

“To his credit, the Attorney-General appears concerned with the protection of children and we’d like to see this concern extended to those young people caught in a vicious circle of poverty, difficult home lives and crime.

“A ‘tough on crime’ approach to young people is the expensive option – the action plan indicates we spend more than $33 million a year on youth detention.

“Meanwhile, this approach would likely lead to an increase in the number of offenders as it casts the net wider, capturing those who may otherwise be rehabilitated and further entrenching them in the youth justice system.

“To improve youth justice, we recommend targeted intervention for repeat offenders that addresses the underlying issues causing their behaviours and acts as a circuit breaker.”

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