We observed the importance of experienced and well-resourced staff in helping to build relationships with young people which facilitate positive pathways and reduce the chances of re-offending. For example, in Norway, prison officers require a minimum of two years of paid study. In Norway’s youth detention facilities, half of the staff are social workers. This focus has supported the country to have extremely low incarceration and recidivism rates in comparison to Australia
Fundamentally, we found that the most effective systems are the ones where young people are supported to address their individual and often complex needs. A safe youth detention system that focuses on setting children and young people up for success when they return to the community means safer workplaces, less crime and more cohesive communities.
New Cherry Creek facility must focus on supporting young people to successfully reintegrate into the community
The Victorian Government is soon to open its new Cherry Creek detention facility – the third youth detention facility in the state.
Since plans for the new facility were announced in 2017, Jesuit Social Services has consistently advocated against it. We believe it is unnecessary to build a detention facility when funds would be far better directed to intervene early and work intensively with at-risk children to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.
Having said that, we welcomed the Victorian Government’s 2022-2023 Budget announcement to reduce the capacity of the new facility from more than 200 beds to 56 beds.
Our #JusticeSolutions tours demonstrated that the most effective youth detention facilities around the world are designed as small, home-like centres, close to family and community, and share an overarching emphasis on education, independent living skills and the re-socialisation of young people.
We call on the new Victorian Government to ensure the Cherry Creek youth justice facility is a place of small, homelike units designed to support successful integration back into the community.