Save the Children Australia is calling for greater effort to prevent children and young people entering the justice system, following the release of the Partners in Crime report today.
The new report by the Centre for Policy Development highlights the alarming way Australia’s criminal justice systems are compounding disadvantage at escalating costs to children, families and governments.
It calls for a systematic approach to reforming these criminal justice systems, addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviour and disrupting the ‘conveyor belt’ of disadvantage to the criminal justice system.
Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said:
“This report shows how Australia’s criminal justice system is trapping people in disadvantage across generations, setting children and young people down a dangerous path from which many never escape.
“Save the Children strongly supports the report’s recommendations, the importance of which we see every day through our own work with families and communities.
“Partners in Crime shows how this vicious cycle begins early. For children whose parents are incarcerated, their disadvantage is compounded and they are far more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system themselves.
“We need to intervene early to break the cycle of disadvantage. We need to support children rather than criminalising and jailing them.
“Save the Children works with children at risk of becoming enmeshed with the criminal justice system, or already in contact with the system, right across Australia, and we know that early intervention really works.
“We cannot wait for already vulnerable children to fall into a life of crime and then entrenching their disadvantage through punitive approaches that encourage reoffending.
“We can – and must – do better to support these children to change the paths that their postcodes and family circumstances have set them on.
“We also need to make sure we’re hearing the voices of children and young people with lived experience of the criminal justice system when designing reforms.”
Save the Children is calling for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 years old. The current minimum age is 10 years across all states and territories.
“This simple but important step would go a long way to breaking the link between disadvantage and Australia’s criminal justice system,” Mr Ronalds said.
“We know that the younger a child is when they are first sentenced, the more likely they are to reoffend, including as an adult, and the severity of their offending is also likely to increase.
“No 10-year-old should ever end up in jail.”
Save the Children runs Youth Justice programs across Australia (Queensland, Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia) working with children and young people at-risk of entering the youth justice system, including place-based initiatives which draw on linked data and community partnerships to identify and support highly at-risk children before they come into contact with youth justice.
The child rights agency also runs diversionary and therapeutic interventions for those already engaging in offending behaviour, and extending to bail support and through-care services for children and young people in detention and exiting custody. Read more here.
For media inquiries contact Anna Jabour on 0403 322 992