Youth justice reforms miss the mark, risk further harm to the community

May 24, 2017 |

Smart Justice for Young People (SJ4YP) is deeply concerned and disappointed by the youth justice reforms introduced by the Victorian Government today.

SJ4YP Convenor Tiffany Overall said the Government has sadly misdirected its focus away from rehabilitation toward futile punishments that will ultimately do the community more harm than good.

‘We know that if we want to put a stop to crime, we need to understand why it’s happening and then address the reasons,’ said Ms Overall.

‘We know that most kids who commit crime are not in school, don’t have positive role models or come from violent homes. Funnelling these kids into prison and keeping them there for longer, when they have clearly been struggling, does more damage and puts us all at risk of further harm.’

‘The Victorian Government must get their priorities in order. We need to invest in communities, not prisons and punitive regimes that will push people, and the system, to breaking point.’

‘We know restrictive and punitive approaches do not work, so our focus needs to be on supporting kids to live safely in their communities.’

Youth justice experts and service workers have lamented the Government’s announcements, which pre-empt recommendations from several major reviews of the system currently underway.

Ms Overall said a court diversion scheme introduced today has been strongly recommended by the community sector but the role of police in determining eligibility could undermine its effectiveness.

‘We are pleased that diversion will be enshrined in the youth justice system but unless kids are assessed and treated in a consistent way, we will find ourselves running into the same problems.’

The Government also announced changes that would place some kids in the adult court system, and flagged the erosion of Victoria’s highly effective dual track system.

‘Disappointingly, these changes will mean fewer young people will be sentenced in the children’s system, where the court’s focus and expertise are in reducing the risk of reoffending,’ said Ms Overall.

‘Nobody wants more victims. But treating vulnerable young people like adults is not the solution. We need to make the most of the opportunity we have to engage them and support them to make a positive contribution to the community,’ said Ms Overall.

Update: Submissions to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee

Members of the Smart Justice for Young People coalition and other stakeholders have made submissions to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Commitee, including: