Youth (in)justice and the COVID-19 pandemic: rethinking incarceration through a public health lens
Author(s): Faith Gordon
Serious concerns for the safety and well-being of children and young people are multiplying due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for children’s urgent release from prison. Evidence demonstrates that incarceration can aggravate existing health conditions and result in new health issues, such as depression, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. This paper draws on findings from a larger study involving 25 qualitative interviews with policy makers, practitioners and researchers working in youth justice and utilises Victoria in South East Australia as a case study. Victoria represents the Australian state worst affected by COVID-19 and has one of the highest levels of children and young people incarcerated. This paper recommends decarceration of children and young people, with alternatives built around principles of a public health model. It argues that this holistic approach can promote children’s rights and crucially attend to the physical and emotional well-being of children and young people, compared with the current arrangements.
Co-authors: Faith Gordon, Hannah Klose and Michelle Lyttle Storrod.