Why bail changes are ‘no fix’ for youth crime
CHANGES to youth justice legislation will not go far enough to combat the juvenile crime crisis facing Cairns, an expert has said.
The Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, understood to take effect next month, will expand the circumstances in which police can release children on bail and aims to reduce the number of juveniles being held in custody.
"The Bill removes legislative barriers to support bail decision-making so children can be appropriately released," Minister for Child Safety Di Farmer said earlier this year when introducing the Bill to state parliament.
A Department of Child Safety briefing note claimed the Bill would "reduce demand pressures on youth detention centres and watch-houses.
"Children who have only been charged with minor and simple offences should not be remanded in detention and they certainly should not be kept in watch-houses," the note said.
But Cairns and Cape York clinical psychologist Dr Tim White said, while the measures were a start, juveniles needed diversional programs to break the cycle of offending.
"We need to empower them to make the right decisions," Dr White said.
"We are talking about young people from broken families and family histories of incarceration.
"Youth detention, it's horrible. You have Lord of the Flies scenarios, 17-year-olds lording over younger kids.
"But bringing them out of custody and leaving them in the environment that created the problem is not a solution either."
He said the rehabilitation system needed to motivate juveniles around "careers, not jobs".
Dr White's Kapani Warrior program has successfully broken the cycle of offending and family violence in a number of Cape York communities.
He said he was adapting his program to suit youthful offenders in the Northern Territory.
"Diversion to another institution won't work - environmental retreats come with a huge amount of insurance and risk, but these are the things that young people need".
Youth-driven street crime is the focus of the recently launched Queensland Police Greater Cairns Task Force 2.0, which will target vulnerable families and juveniles.
Street Level Youth Care, Anglicare and Youthlink have been invited to comment.
WHAT BILL MEANS
The Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 supports the government's commitment that children and young people will not be detained on remand in Queensland Police Service watch-houses, other than for normal arrest and processing.
Minister for Youth Justice Di Farmer said the Bill was an important step in the government's $550 million youth justice reform agenda, which is focused on keeping communities safe, reducing offending and reoffending while holding young offenders to account.
"No-one wants to see young people held on remand or in watch-houses beyond usual processing times," she said.