Calls for the justice system to take better care of juvenile offenders intensified recently after the Victorian government sent 40 young offenders to an adult prison.
Young offenders in Victoria were sent to an adult prison following riots at Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville. Law Institute of Victoria president Steven Sapountsis was vehemently against the move, which he said was a breach of Australia's international obligations.
“We have consistently maintained, on sound and experienced advice, that it is inappropriate to lock children up in adult jails. It teaches worse behaviour, costs a lot of money, is in breach of our international obligations and simply does not work,” he said.
“While incarceration in an adult jail of young offenders may seem an attractive short-term ‘fix’, it is in the best interests of the community that a longer-term solution be found, with the help of those who work in the field, including lawyers.”
In addition, the Law Society Northern Territory is still fighting against publicly open juvenile courts. The NT remains the only Australian jurisdiction where juvenile courts are completely open to the public and reports on proceedings are unrestricted. The Law Society NT recently called for the territory to step in line with the rest of the country by restricting public access to juvenile courts, taking the position that identifying juvenile offenders does nothing for the community.
“The society made calls on the last territory government to amend the Youth Justice Act to restrict the publication of youth court proceedings, but in spite of those calls there are no restrictions at all,” said Law Society NT president Tass Liveris.
“We need to do what we can to reduce the alarmingly high levels of juvenile incarceration, reintegrate juveniles into the community and stop the cycle of reoffending.”
Focusing on rehabilitation, punishment and treatment, rather than publicity, would help with the NT’s alarming juvenile incarceration rates, Mr Liveris said.