ALA welcomes closure of Ashley Youth Detention Centre

9th Sep 2021

The Government’s decision to close the Ashley Youth Detention Centre has been welcomed by lawyers who say that it is imperative that this opportunity for a complete overhaul of the youth justice system in Tasmania is not squandered.

“The horrific abuse experienced by children who have been detained at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre over many years is appalling,” said Ms Rowena Macdonald, state president, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“We are aware of dreadful abuses of children placed in Ashley, including physical and sexual abuse, unnecessary and invasive strip searches, excessive use of restraints, invasive treatments and solitary confinement.

“A fresh start is needed but it is critical that any new proposed facilities are built with a focus on rehabilitation, and developed in consultation with youth justice experts. A new model of youth detention must provide the support and intervention young people need to keep them out of trouble in the future.

“Facilities must be close to health, education and family support services and ideally located in major urban centres such as Hobart and Launceston. They should be informed by world’s best practice which is to create a home environment for young people. 

“It is also imperative that the Government commits to keeping the children remaining in Ashley safe for the next two to three years while new facilities are built.

“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 purpose of youth detention must be rehabilitation and support. Successive governments have known this since as far back as 1925.”

The ALA also noted that disclosures at Budget Estimates hearings reveal the need for a whole of system review of both the adult and juvenile corrections sectors. 

The ALA welcomes the allocation in the budget for Corrections, but says that the only purpose of a corrections sector is to further the task of reintegrating and rehabilitating those who have ended up in the criminal justice system.

“Ensuring fitness for purpose of intended expenditure in this area must involve an acknowledgement of that fundamental purpose,” said Mr Fabiano Cangelosi, ALA spokesperson.

“Premier Gutwein and Minister Courtney’s agility on this issue is proof of their capacity and inclination for reform. The Premier should take this opportunity to enact a whole-of-systems review into corrections.”

Tags: Tasmania Youth Justice Prisons