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Media Release: Building new prisons not the answer to youth crisis

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 5 October 2023

The Queensland Government’s announcement of a new remand centre to address the surging numbers of children being locked up is another step further away from evidence-based policy that would improve community safety and reduce the number of children in prison.

Justice Reform Initiative executive director Dr Mindy Sotiri said that although the government needed to act urgently on the number of children being held in adult watchhouses, building a new remand centre was a band-aid solution that would likely entrench the problems that had brought children into contact with the criminal justice system, rather than help solve them.

“Building new prisons is not the answer,” she said. “Locking children up, whether on remand or in detention, only compounds the issues which have brought them to that point.

“There is absolutely an urgent need to get children out of watchhouses. There is no doubt that the serious mistreatment of children in places of adult detention requires an immediate response. However, rushing to build more cells for children instead of looking for the evidence-based solutions to this problem is incredibly short-sighted.

“The evidence is crystal clear – sending children to prison ultimately increases the risk of re-offending and creates a pipeline into adult prisons. Detention does not work to deter crime, to rehabilitate, or improve community safety.

“The evidence shows that we get far better results, for taxpayers and communities, when we invest in services that work directly with children in the community and actively divert children away from the justice system, rather than simply creating capacity to lock more kids up.

“To address the overcrowding that is putting children in watchhouses, we need to address the drivers of over-crowding – including the knee-jerk policy responses that drive up over-incarceration. We need to address the drivers of crime.

“Queensland already locks up more children than anywhere else in Australia, and it is not working to deter crime or to keep the community safe. Queenslanders deserve a policy reset, based on hard evidence of what actually works in youth justice.”

The Justice Reform Initiative is a national alliance supported by more than 120 patrons, including two former Governors-General, former Members of Parliament from all sides of politics, academics, respected Aboriginal leaders, senior former judges, including High Court judges, and others who have added their voices to end Australia’s dangerously high reliance on jails. For more information visit

Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746

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