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Jesuit Social Services says new data on the Australian Government’s spending on youth justice highlights the effectiveness of restorative justice programs.

The Productivity Commission’s annual Report on Government Services, released yesterday, revealed youth detention had increased exponentially in recent years. 

Jesuit Social Services said community-based restorative programs result in better outcomes for young people and the wider community, arguing that detention should only ever be used as a last resort.

“This report shows us that while the average number of young people in detention across Australia has remained relatively steady – and actually decreased over the five-year period from 2016-17 to 2021-22 – the cost of incarcerating children and young people in Australia continues to rise,” says Jesuit Social Services chief executive Julie Edwards.

“In Victoria, the average cost per day of keeping a young person in detention has more than doubled over the past five years to its highest level of just over $5000 per day. That’s more than $5000 a day to lock up a young person when all of the evidence shows that detention is not conducive to rehabilitation and that young people actually exit the system worse off than when they entered it.

Jesuit Social Services delivers youth justice group conferencing in Victoria and parts of the Northern Territory. 

“This restorative justice program brings together a young person with those impacted by their actions, including victims, family members and police, to allow the young person to take responsibility, make amends and be supported onto positive pathways,” Ms Edwards said.

“Today’s report shows us that the average total cost of a completed Group Conference in Victoria is just over $20,000 – the same cost of locking up a young person for four days. Not only is a model like this far more cost-effective than detention, but it leads to less crime and fewer victims.”


New youth justice spending data highlights effectiveness of restorative justice programs (Jesuit Social Services)