National legal association condemns plan for new youth detention centre in Cairns

9th Dec 2022

A new youth detention centre in Cairns will not work to lower the rate of crime in the region, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“The evidence shows that locking up children is not effective. It does not have a deterrent effect and it causes further trauma,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).  

 “Evidence shows that teenagers detained within the justice system are more likely to reoffend and many will fail to finish their education and find employment. This is a terrible outcome for the young people in the Cairns region and for the broader community in the long term.

“The focus on imprisonment also has an alarmingly disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, who make up 65 per cent of the child prison population despite making up only six per cent of the population.”

The ALA considers that detention of young people should only ever occur as an absolute last resort when there is no other option to ensure their safety and the safety of others in the community, and no child under 18 should be detained in a custody setting.   If a child under 18 needs to be detained they should be placed in a therapeutic setting that focuses on education and rehabilitation.

“We urge the Government to be bold and invest to alternate justice solutions. Queensland has an opportunity to lead the way in transitioning from a punitive system to a restorative system that rehabilitates young offenders,” said Mr Barns SC.

 “It is critical that any plans to address youth crime focus on rehabilitation and is developed in consultation with youth justice experts. We need to spend funds on providing the support and intervention young people need to keep them out of trouble in the future, rather than investing in more prisons.”

Tags: Queensland Youth Justice