Knee-jerk reforms risk further entrenching offending behavior in children

Public safety and the State budget will suffer as a result of harsh new measures by the Andrews Government, Liberty Victoria warned today.

The human rights group’s president, Jessie Taylor, said “The use of the word ‘reforms’ in the announcement implies improvements. But longer jail terms for children is a step backwards, ultimately costing more in public safety, policing and the courts as these children and young people become hardened and schooled in crime. The cost of ‘law and order’ then shoots up.
"Not only do we face significant fiscal impacts, but also this raft of punitive reforms will be ineffective in addressing the behaviour of what is actually a small number of children with complex needs. 

"News reports say that there is a core of just 180 young offenders that the government seeks to target through these measures. This small group would be better served through support and wrap around services rather than responses that will only entrench their offending behaviour.” 

She said it should be kept in mind that these children are from incredibly tough backgrounds – often out-of-home care, extreme disadvantage and social exclusion. “If we are going to stand a chance at stopping their graduation into the adult justice system, we have to rise above the knee-jerk rhetoric and put in place proper supports.
"Simply adding another year to the sentence of these children, as is proposed, will do nothing to respond to the drivers of the offending behavior of these children and young people. Instead, we need to look at what is best practice for curbing young offenders’ behaviour, which is to provide intensive, therapeutic supports that respond to social disengagement and the drivers of their offending.” 

She said people’s worry about their safety was understandable. 

“But ‘cracking down’ with punitive measures that will only entrench offending behaviour is the wrong way to go about community safety." 

Ms Taylor said Liberty Victoria will be closely monitoring the impact of these reforms, and ensuring close scrutiny of further detail as to how they will work in practice.