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Youth justice reforms must be tough on the causes of youth crime Analysis

Youth justice reforms must be tough on the causes of youth crime

viccrimehilbertVictorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces new measures to combat youth crime. (Pic: Lauren Hilbert/Twitter)


THE suite of policing and youth justice reforms announced in the last two days emphasise community protection, compliance and punishment, with less of a focus on rehabilitation and tackling the causes of youth crime.

While overall youth crime numbers are on the decrease, Victoria has a problem with the repeat and violent offending behaviours by a small number of young offenders. But we can’t arrest our way out of this problem via the 2,729 police to be recruited over the next four years.

The 42 new youth specialist officers may be very handy targeting areas of high risk youth offending and work with at-risk young people. However, imagine what reductions in youth crime could be achieved  if we used even 4% of this $2 billion investment ($80 million over 4 years at $100,000  per year targeting up to 200 serious and recidivist young offenders ) on tailored, intensive, case managed  interventions for these young people including after hours support, family work, re-engagement with education and employment, building social and cultural connections, and addressing issues such as alcohol and other drug use and mental illness.

We welcome initiatives that should help reduce the number of children on remand un-sentenced, especially a state-wide Youth Justice Bail Supervision scheme and expansion of the Central After Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service.

Proposed reforms like “Youth Control Orders” and “Intensive Monitoring and Control Bail Supervision, sound punitive, but may well in practice provide intensive case management support responding to young people’s complex needs, as recommended at the Chief Commissioner’s Youth Summit in July this year.

While the proposed Intensive Monitoring and Control Bail supervision will require a young person to engage with education and training, we need to be cautious this it is not an overly restrictive tough on crime response, rather than tough on the causes of crime response. Imposing restrictive curfews will not address the underlying causes of offending.

Empirical research has been conducted into the effect of curfews and demonstrates the questionable effectiveness of curfews in reducing crime rates. And research also tells us that without support to assist young people in meeting conditions, intensive supervision programs have repeatedly been identified as most likely to increase negative bail outcomes by providing increased opportunities for young people to be breached.

These announcements pre-empt expert, evidence-based advice the Government will receive from their current Review of the youth support, youth diversion and youth justice services. On completion of this process we encourage Government to  review this suite of reforms in light of responses to offending developed and recommended by this Review.

This article first appeared at Smart Justice For Young People


Featured image: Flickr CC / polarizer_TO