A National Inquiry Needed into Juvenile Detention

Youth Off The Streets supports the royal commission into abuse at Northern Territory’s Don Dale detention centre, but insists that it must extend nation-wide.

The recent Four Corner’s report on the abuse and torture of our youth in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, Northern Territory must lead to a national change in how we rehabilitate young offenders.

The incarceration of any young person should only ever be used after all other avenues of rehabilitation have been exhausted. These young people have suffered a life of poverty, abuse, homelessness, and have been exposed to criminal behaviour and drug and alcohol abuse from a young age, often through immediate family or close relatives.

They are not hardened criminals that we are putting behind bars; these are young people who are calling out for help. Youth Off The Streets is calling for this Royal Commission to extend into a nation-wide inquiry to ensure that this injustice is not prevalent in other states.

Father Chris Riley, CEO and founder of Youth Off The Streets, says that we need to re-look at juvenile detention and pursue alternative, more effective ways of rehabilitation.

“If people think this is a one off problem, they are wrong. This is happening right around the country – in NSW, gaols are over-populated and as a result construction has started on demountable gaols, Berrima Correctional centre is possibly opening again. A path to disaster and violence is the only outcome from this approach. There are alternative, and more effective ways to reintroduce disaffected people back into society; and the actions shown on Monday night are not one of them.”

“We need to provide our young people with the appropriate assistance and treatment to help them to turn their lives around and ensure that they do not return to previous negative activities,” he says.

Not only is Youth Off The Streets calling for the Royal Commission to be expanded into a national investigation, we are also calling for action to be taken, based on the recommendations made by the report.  25 years ago, a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody was carried out, resulting in 339 recommendations being made, but little effect on the prisoner population has been seen since 1995. This cannot be allowed to happen again, when the recommendations are handed down, action must be taken.

The incarceration of our most vulnerable is a blight on our society and Youth Off The Streets recommends a national inquiry into the way we are rehabilitating young offenders. It’s time to heal our young people and not further traumatise them through state intervention.

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