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Huge cost of detaining young people in WA reinforces need to invest more diverting from justice system

Following new reports detailing the exorbitant cost of detaining young people in WA, Save the Children has renewed its call for greater funding to divert young people out of the justice system.
08 August 2019

New media reports show that costly charter flights have been used to transfer children to the state’s only youth detention centre in Canning Vale, taking the young person away from their community for an average of five weeks.

Then it costs almost $1,000 a day to keep the child locked up at the Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre.

Save the Children’s WA State Manager Juan Larranaga urged the WA Government to change its approach to youth justice and increase funding for proven social programs that help divert young people out of the justice system and into positive pathways.

“The cost of locking up young people to the WA taxpayer is exorbitant, and we know it doesn’t work when it comes to reducing recidivism rates,” Mr Larranaga said.

“By and large the majority of young people in trouble with the law need support to help get their lives back on track, not to be taken away from their families, their schools and their networks and locked up.

“Justice reinvestment is a proven approach that helps children learn new skills, develop positive relationships and plan for the future. We should be investing in young people’s futures, not detaining them.”

Save the Children has a long history working with at risk youth in WA, including through the Youth Partnership Project, which works with at-risk youth providing intensive, targeted support. The program works alongside agencies including Police, Education, Justice, and Child Protection & Family Support.

“Only purposeful, genuine and child-focused collaboration can help these children at risk of falling through the gaps in the service system and ensure they get the wrap around support they need,” Mr Larranaga said.

“Programs like ours are built on collaboration and trust, harnessing the power of local services. We’ve proven that we can change the trajectory of young people’s lives for the better.

“Not only is it the right thing to do for young people, but it will help reduce the enormous tax payer funded cost of WA’s youth justice system, which is in urgent need of change.”

On average, 148 youths were in detention on any given day in 2017-18.


For media enquires contact Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918.

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