Youth justice must rehabilitate, not cause further harm to children and young people

Urgent action is needed to reform the state’s youth justice system, Greens spokesperson for Corrective Services Hon Alison Xamon has said, following revelations of the impact restrictive practices are having on the rehabilitation of young people in Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

Ms Xamon said it was absolutely unacceptable that a young person currently detained at Banksia Hill had been kept isolated from important programs and services since May last year.

She said the youth justice system should be protecting and helping children and young people, not actively causing damage.

“In February, the Inspector of Custodial Services again highlighted concerns with behaviour management practices at Banksia Hill,” Ms Xamon said. 

“The Government seems to have forgotten that children and young people in detention still have the basic human right to be treated with dignity and respect, have access to education, healthcare and social activities and not to suffer from psychological harm.” 

Ms Xamon said WA Budget papers had shown that a staggering 58.6% of young people released from Banksia Hill returned to detention within two years in 2017-18. 

She said the 3.6% rise in re-offending rates on 2016-17 was a clear indication that the system is not working. 

“International evidence had shown that a therapeutic rather than punitive approach to care while in detention makes a big difference,” Ms Xamon said. 

“More work is desperately needed in prevention and diversion to stop young people ending up in the youth justice system in the first place.” 

Ms Xamon said it was unacceptable that there was currently only one detention option for children and young people from across the state. 

She said children and young people are sent to Banksia Hill whether they are 10 years old or much older, whether they are sentenced or unsentenced, whether they are from Perth or Halls Creek, and whether they have FASD or another serious mental health issue.

“The Young Offenders Actneeds to change, and Banksia Hill has to go,” Ms Xamon said. 

“Children and young people need to have detention options closer to their families and communities to help them develop the skills and supports they need to live successful, law-abiding lives,” Ms Xamon said.

“A different approach will make the community safer and save money in the long-term.”