Jesuit Social Services has thrown its support behind the Human Rights Law Centre’s fresh legal challenge against the detention of children in Barwon Prison.

“The Government’s decision late last year to detain vulnerable young children in the youth justice system was a major step backwards. Less than a year after the abuse and neglect of young people in Don Dale shamed the nation, Victoria is moving away from what we know works in working with vulnerable young people to a punitive, ‘tough-on-crime’ approach,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“The Human Rights Law Centre has outlined some of the inhumane conditions young people at Barwon are subject to including lockdown for up to 23 hours a day, the reported use of capsicum spray and last week, a major injury to a young person detained at Barwon. These conditions are unequivocally unfit for children,” says Ms Edwards.

“Evidence shows that we get better outcomes when children are treated in fit for purpose, age-appropriate facilities staffed by appropriately qualified, trained and resourced staff.”

Earlier this week the Victorian Government announced it will transfer responsibility for youth justice from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Justice. Ms Edwards labels this move “counter-productive to community safety.”

“Clearly new approaches are needed to tackle a very small group of serious and violent young offenders in Victoria, and to intensively address their behaviour.

“However decisions like housing young people in adult prisons and moving youth justice responsibility to the same department that manages adult justice, as well as the current language used by Government, opposition and the media around this issue, runs counter to the philosophies behind an effective youth justice system and ultimately will not make our community safely.”

Media enquiries – Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or