Unless child offenders are put through rehabilitation programs without distractions, “nothing will work” to break their cycle of recidivism, a Far North Queensland mayor has said.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill supports state government plans to make bail breaches a crime for children and to increase jail sentences for offenses primarily committed by children.
She says the “frequent travelers” of the youth justice system know that the courts detain them as a last resort. When placed in nursing homes in his town, they quickly reconnect with other delinquents.
Detaining them will help limit this, the mayor says, but the cycle of recidivism will not be broken unless children have access to effective rehabilitation programs in detention.
“If all of a sudden you can be detained, that also gives you as a government the ability to properly place those kids in programs in Cleveland (youth detention center) and I know you run some great programs there . Some of you have broken the cycle on some of these children,” she told a parliamentary inquiry into the bills on Thursday.
“But until they are in these programs, if they are sentenced to three months at best, nothing will work.”
The state government has admitted that the legislation will limit children’s rights and effectively override the Human Rights Act it passed in 2019.
The proposed laws and the short time given to the community to submit comments have been widely criticized by legal groups, social service providers and human rights watchdogs.
Much of the criticism centers on the potential worsening of the problem of youth crime, with evidence cited by the state’s human rights commissioner suggesting that pretrial detention of children triples the risk of them re-offending.
However, the mayor of Townsville said the bill should go even further by providing mandatory sentences for certain offenses and providing alternatives to detention such as military-style remote housing where offenders do not have access. to social media.
“You also have to make sure it’s managed properly. A lot of these children come from very difficult environments and I would say that a structure, a good solid structure around some of these children could help them understand and appreciate what it is like to live in society,” said Ms Hill told the inquest, sitting in Townsville on Thursday.
She said under existing arrangements, children are placed in care homes in the middle of Townsville which “are not very well run” by external providers based in Sydney and Melbourne.
“It’s more about making a profit than taking care of the children,” the mayor said.
“If you take them out of the environment they’re in, you have the opportunity to educate them and support them in a setting where they’re not distracted, and then…bring them back to a place like Townsville, there’s all the same distractions, all the same friends, all the same social networks.”
The investigation is continuing.
. detention children only will work not according to mayor Queensland