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Media Release: New youth detention facility will reduce safety and cost Queenslanders more than dollars

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 11 May 2023

The Queensland Government’s announcement of a new youth detention centre to be built at Woodford is a troubling development in a misguided approach to youth justice which completely ignores the evidence of what actually works to improve community safety.

The Justice Reform Initiative – a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 eminent Australians including former premiers and attorneys-general, judges, prosecutors, youth justice experts and respected Aboriginal leaders – today renewed its call for the Queensland government to pause and refocus its policy decisions based on evidence, instead of political pointscoring.

“Building this facility and another near Cairns will cost Queenslanders millions of dollars, but it will not make them safer,” said Dr Mindy Sotiri, Executive Director of the Justice Reform Initiative.

There is overwhelming evidence that youth detention does not work to deter crime, to rehabilitate, or improve community safety.

“In Queensland, around 8 in 10 children released from sentenced detention return there within a year. Around 90% of children released from detention are alleged to reoffend within a year of their release.

“We cannot imprison our way to a safer society. Locking up children increases the likelihood of them committing crime in the future – it is not being ‘tough on crime’, it is ignoring the evidence.

“Increasing the number of people in prison and then building new prisons to keep them in is a waste of money that will lead to worse results.

“Queensland taxpayers would be far better served by investment in early intervention, early prevention, diversion, and evidence-based alternatives outside of the youth justice system. Queenslanders deserve a smarter approach which invests in people, not prisons, to deliver real results for community safety.” 

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


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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