Proposed youth justice reforms in NT will not make community safer

The reforms to youth justice laws proposed by the Northern Territory government yesterday will not make communities safer and contradict the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the detention of children in the NT, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“We know people are looking for answers and we all want to live in safe communities, but the ‘tough on crime’ measures proposed by the NT Government are not the solution,” says Mr Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, ALA. “Locking up more young people will not help – it just increases the likelihood of even more serious offending as the young people become adults.

“All the evidence from around the world tells us that the more exposure a young person has to detention centres and the criminal justice system the more likely they are to continue to reoffend. The Government’s proposal to have more people locked up is only going to make the situation worse in the long term.

“There is no evidence that keeping young people in detention reduces the likelihood of them committing crimes on release. In fact, the contrary is true. One of the first studies in the world of pretrial detention, published last year in the US, showed that pretrial detention was associated with a 33% increase in serious crime recidivism and 11% increase in petty crime recidivism within one year of release[1].

“Evidence also clearly shows that electronic monitoring does not reduce crime. Electronic monitoring is ineffective, it stigmatises kids and have been known to cause vigilante action seeing as the young person can be so easily identified.

“Importantly, the proposed measures will have a particularly disproportionate effect on young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are already significantly over-represented in youth detention in the NT.

“These proposals contradict all effective youth justice principles that promote diversion away from detention and the criminal justice system.”

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