New reforms 'erode' Victoria's youth justice system

New laws may inhibit rehabilitation (Pixabay)

The passing of the Youth Justice Reform Bill 2017 will erode the foundations of Victoria’s youth justice system and prevent the rehabilitation of vulnerable youth, says Jesuit Social Services.

“An effective youth justice system is one that holds young people accountable for their actions while working to rehabilitate and re-socialise them, to ultimately prevent re-offending,” said Jesuit Social Services chief executive Julie Edwards.

Ms Edwards said Jesuit Social Services is particularly concerned about the unwinding of the dual track system which is one of the cornerstones of the Victorian justice system.

Dual track allows young people aged 18 to 20 to be sentenced to a youth detention facility if a court believes they are vulnerable or have reasonable prospects for rehabilitation. Once the new reforms are implemented, there will be a presumption that young people between 18 and 20 convicted of particular offences will be sentenced to adult prison unless exceptional circumstances apply.

“Evidence shows us that young people who spend time in adult prison are more likely to re-offend on their return to the community than young people exiting youth detention,” Ms Edwards said.

“Dual track has been a vital element of our youth justice system which supports judicial discretion and the ability for judges and magistrates to determine the most appropriate way to facilitate the rehabilitation and re-socialisation of a young person.”

Ms Edwards said Victoria is moving further and further away from the types of successful youth justice systems which leaders from Jesuit Social Services explored during a recent study tour.

“Our recent #JusticeSolutions study tour found that successful youth justice systems overseas place emphasis on education and rehabilitation and are staffed by qualified and well supported people. The unwinding of an initiative like dual track is sending Victoria in the wrong direction.”

Ms Edwards said the organisation is pleased to note that the Bill contains a review mechanism which means amendments within the Act will be reviewed after three years.

FULL STORY

Unwinding of dual track erodes foundations of Victoria’s youth justice system (Jesuit Social Services)

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