Jesuit Social Services welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision that the Victorian Government’s housing of young offenders at Barwon Prison is unlawful.
We commend the efforts of the Human Rights Law Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service who have valiantly fought for the rights of vulnerable young people since the Government transferred these young people to Barwon Prison last month.
The verdict is vindication for our steadfast belief that there is no place for children in an adult prison. As well as being inhumane and unethical, the Supreme Court has now ruled it unlawful.
Victorian law recognizes that children have different needs to adult offenders and research shows us that children in adult jails are exposed to irreversible emotional and psychological harm, as well as increased risk of re-offending.
While it has been difficult to obtain details about which children have been transferred to Barwon, we know many children in the broader youth justice system are on remand (which means they are yet to be convicted of a crime) and have histories with child protection.
These are among the most vulnerable young people in society.
We know that a small group of young people are committing serious and violent offences with frequency, and the community has every right to be concerned with this. We all want safer communities and detention is a critical component of the youth justice system. However, any use of detention must be humane and sustainable, and the Government’s use of the adult prison system has been far from that.
Jesuit Social Services has offered to work with the Victorian Government on solutions that will hold young people accountable while working with them in age-appropriate ways to understand the impact of their actions and address the underlying issues behind their behaviour.
We look forward to collaborating on these solutions, supporting young people to reach their full potential and working to create safer communities.
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