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Media Release: A political misfire – NSW Government’s move to tighten bail laws misses opportunity to keep children and communities safe

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 12 March 2024

Plans to tighten bail laws and introduce new ‘post and boast’ penalties for children in NSW are misguided, and entirely out of step with government priorities to reduce crime and reoffending. Such measures will serve to net-widen and increase the number of children involved with the criminal justice system, without making the community any safer.

While the $26.2 million package announced by the Minns Government on Tuesday includes a welcome commitment to boost some community support services for children, stricter bail laws and new offences undermine that intention – instead doubling down on short-sighted punitive measures that are proven to make reoffending more likely.

The Justice Reform Initiative’s Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri said the NSW government had reverted to political posturing based on a failed ‘tough on crime’ approach, missing the opportunity to engage fully with the evidence about what actually works to support community safety and prevent reoffending.

“Tightening bail laws to keep more children locked up, and particularly children who are already caught up in the system, might work for political point-scoring in the short-term but it has simply never worked to prevent crime or keep the community safe. It instead achieves the opposite,” Dr Sotiri said.

“Similarly, further punishing children for posting to social media fails to address the drivers of that behaviour and won’t work as a deterrent. A ban for ‘posting and boasting’ sounds catchy, but is not based in any evidence. Children and young people are still developing neurologically, and are still learning to weigh up the consequences of their actions before making decisions. Decades of evidence show us that threatening tougher penalties in this way will not work to reduce crime.

“All the evidence shows that the earlier children have interaction with the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to be cycling in and out of it for years to come. That’s a bad result for children, for taxpayers and for community safety.

“We’ve seen this ‘tough on crime’ approach repeatedly fail in Queensland. NSW needs to take a smarter approach that meaningfully invests in evidence-based responses to crime that genuinely disrupt its reoccurrence.”

NSW already has the second-highest number of children imprisoned in Australia, second only to Queensland, in a system that costs the state $201 million each year. This spending in NSW is considerably higher than the funding directed towards crime-prevention programs and community services, such as bail support programs that have been shown to slash reoffending by 33%.

“It is not about excusing crime or minimising its impact but simply ensuring children have access to the right support within their community when they go off track to address the drivers of crime and break the cycle of incarceration,” Dr Sotiri said. “Deepening a child’s involvement with the system by making bail more difficult means they are more likely to lose their community connections and opportunities to change trajectory.

“The $26.2 million reform package committed to boost some community programs and crime prevention initiatives is a small step forward, but we cannot couple this with policies that widen the criminal justice net for vulnerable children. NSW instead needs serious investment to significantly scale the many proven programs and services run by the community sector that work together to provide those ‘off-ramps’ out of the justice system.

“We urge the NSW Government to shift their focus to ensure all children – and adults – in NSW can receive effective support and opportunity in the community rather than being ‘managed’ in the justice system time and again at the expense of taxpayers, and community safety.”

Media contact:  Pia Akerman 0412 346 746


The Initiative respectfully acknowledges and supports the current and longstanding efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reduce the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Australia and, importantly, the leadership role which Indigenous-led organisations continue to play on this issue. We also acknowledge the work of many other individuals and organisations seeking change, such as those focused on the rate of imprisonment for women, people with mental health issues, people with disability and others.

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