Young Offenders Under the Spotlight in Tasmania and NSW
15 March 2012 at 1:07 pm
Save the Children's Lisa Cuatt (left) with the chair of the Tasmanian Community Fund Lynn Mason at the launch of the Supporting Young People on Bail program in Hobart.
A new Not for Profit program that supports young offenders on bail and aims to reduce the number of young people on remand and in detention has been launched in Tasmania.
The 12 month program, Supporting Young People on Bail, is being run by Australian NGO Save the Children, and is expected to assist up to 80 young Tasmanians aged 10-17.
Save the Children says that the program will support young people who are on bail by “helping them re-engage with educational, recreational and vocational/employment opportunities”.
Save the Children Tasmania program manager, Lisa Cuatt, said that the program will work to decrease the number of young offenders from the southern region being held on remand and detention at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in Tasmania.
“Tasmania has the highest recidivism rate, with 33 per cent of all crime being enacted by repeat offenders,” Cuatt said.
“Support is provided to the young person to comply with their bail conditions and re-engage with positive community networks.”
Save the Children says that the Children Court’s Magistrate will adjourn the young person’s case to enable them to work on meeting their goals.
Late last year, Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner Aileen Ashford released a report critical of the state’s youth justice system, citing a lack of a long-term strategy to deal with young offenders and the need for community based diversionary programs.
Tasmania has the highest youth offender rates in Australia, with 5,832 offenders per 100,000 of persons aged 10 to 19.
The Tasmanian Community Fund provided a $102,000 grant to Save the Children following a successful six month pilot of the program in 2011. This program is also funded by ANZ Trustees and the Andyinc Foundation.
The new Tasmanian announcement also coincides with the release of a NSW report that urges the Youth Justice system there to look elsewhere for programs that reduce the risk of juvenile re-offending.
The study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that an internal program designed to bring young offenders face to face with the victims of their crime and encourage them to accept responsibility for their offending is no more effective than the NSW Children’s Court in reducing juvenile re-offending.
The Bureau compared a sample of 918 young people who were referred to a Youth Justice Conference (YJC) with a matched sample of 918 young people eligible for a YJC who were dealt with by the NSW Children’s Court.
The Bureau found no significant difference between offenders dealt with in a YJC and those dealt with in court in the proportion re-offending. About 64 per cent of the conference group and about 65 per cent of the court group were reconvicted of a further offence in the 24 month follow-up period.
The Bureau also found no difference between the YJC and court groups in the seriousness of their reoffending, the time to the first proven re-offence or the number of proven re-offences.
Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn said that the study indicates that the conference regime established under the NSW Young Offenders Act (1997) is currently no more effective than the NSW Children’s Court in reducing juvenile re-offending among persons eligible for a conference.
“One can only speculate about the reasons for this but one possible explanation is that YJCs do not address the underlying causes of juvenile offending (e.g. drug and alcohol use, parental neglect and abuse, poor school performance, boredom and unemployment).”
“Those who participate in YJCs find the experience very rewarding but we may need to look elsewhere for programs that reduce the risk of juvenile re-offending.”