Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 5 October 2022
The Justice Reform Initiative has called for the Queensland Government to immediately halt and consult on plans to build a new youth detention facility, warning that this would be an expensive, ineffective, and backwards step for Queensland communities.
The initiative – a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 of our most eminent Australians including former judges, prosecutors, youth justice experts and respected Aboriginal leaders – is deeply alarmed by comments from the Queensland Premier and her ministers suggesting that these plans are already underway despite overwhelming evidence that youth detention does not work to deter crime, rehabilitate, or make communities safer.
Executive Director of the Justice Reform Initiative Dr Mindy Sotiri said Queensland taxpayers would be far better served by investment in early intervention, diversion, and evidence-based alternatives outside of the youth justice system.
“The evidence is clear – youth detention does not reduce crime or protect the community,” Dr Sotiri said.
“Youth detention makes it more likely that children will commit further offences. This is because youth detention disconnects children from their communities and takes them away from the supports and connections that they need to build good lives.
“Building a new youth detention centre is not cost-effective. Queensland has spent over $210 million on youth justice infrastructure since 2015 – it’s time for a smarter approach based on evidence of what actually works to stop kids coming into contact with the criminal justice system and helps them on the path to a better future.
“The Queensland Government has committed $5.7 million to the development of a business case for the building of a new children’s prison. It appears however that a decision to expand the number of children’s beds been made beforea proper costings and impact analysis has even occurred. If the Queensland Government anticipates that there is going to be an increase in the numbers of children in custody, why on earth wouldn’t the government focus on resourcing programs that address the drivers of this increase, rather than expanding the number of beds that are available?
“There are multiple examples around Australia of community-led, evidence-based alternatives that are effective in building genuine pathways out of the justice system for children who are at risk. We would welcome the opportunity to share this information with the Queensland Government.
“Queensland has an opportunity now to be leaders in evidence-based youth justice policy. Rather than investing in unnecessary, expensive youth detention centre beds, which all the research shows will ultimately increase re-offending, investment should instead be made in programs and alternatives that genuinely address the drivers of incarceration.
“We urge the Queensland Government to urgently consult and review the evidence on youth justice which so clearly shows that detention will lead to worse outcomes for the state.”
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.
The initiative is calling for governments around Australia to move away from an entrenched reliance on incarceration as the mainstay of the criminal justice system and adopt an evidence-based approach to deliver better results for taxpayers, communities, and people in the criminal justice system.
For more information and a list of patrons of the Justice Reform Initiative visit https://www.justicereforminitiative.org.au/.
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.