Youth crime: Talk tough, call a review – and then do nothing

Youths protesting on the roof of the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville on March 7, 2016. Photo: Jesse MarlowYouths protesting on the roof of the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville on March 7, 2016. Photo: Jesse Marlow
Youths protesting on the roof of the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville on March 7, 2016. Photo: Jesse Marlow

It is easier to talk tough, call an inquiry and do nothing – and then express outrage and surprise when things go wrong.

I endorse the comments of Bernie Geary, the former Victorian commissioner for children and young people. Despite many reviews by governments, they have been loathe to seriously implement the recommendations made by so many, for so long. The current government now wonders why the youth justice system has these problems. I served on the ministerial advisory for youth justice for a decade. The dual track system, as Geary says, ought to be preserved. Knee-jerk responses are likely to lead to more problems and further criminalisation, not less.

We continually see governments call inquiry after inquiry in true Yes Minister style, to deflect scrutiny of their own poor actions and inaction. They do this, at taxpayers' expense, without using such resources to seriously or thoughtfully implement the recommendations of previous reviews. Key retardants for governments are a reluctance to spend money on services, the court system and proper rehabilitative support with genuine early intervention. It is easier to talk tough, call an inquiry and do nothing – and then express outrage and surprise when things go wrong. The more heavy handed the government is, the fewer staff that are available to work in the youth justice system and the less training they receive - plus the lockdowns, delays and opaqueness of the process – then all this will only increase frustration and the risk to public safety.

Dr Liz Curran, Legal Workshop, Australian National University

 

This letter originally appeared in The Age

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