Jesuit Social Services says the majority of young people in youth detention should not be punished with more severe security restrictions for the actions of a few, following an incident in which two boys escaped from Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

“Nobody wants to read news of two young people on remand escaping a detention facility and committing crimes in the community,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“With both young men apprehended by police and having been charged for their involvement, calm heads are required as a full investigation into how and why this occurred is carried out. In the meantime it is vital that the Northern Territory does not revert to an approach dominated by punishment and security at the expense of rehabilitation. We know the horrors that led to the current Royal Commission, and we also know that a punitive approach does not work in creating safer communities.”

Jared Sharp, Jesuit Social Services’ General Manager – Northern Territory, says that the outdated Don Dale facility – described in the recent interim report of the Royal Commission as not fit for accommodating children and young people– provides the Government with few options.

“Nine of the 41 young people currently in Don Dale are in a high security unit, the former maximum security unit of an adult prison. We find this extremely concerning,” says Mr Sharp.

“The children in this unit have limited time out of their cells and reduced access to activities, programs and visits. This is not a model fit for children, particularly as international best practice in youth detention is focused on education and rehabilitation to give these kids a chance to flourish back in the community. Therapeutic custodial environments are significantly less likely to experience incidents with young people, such as escapes, and ultimately make the community safer.”

Mr Sharp says that the recent interim report of the Royal Commission revealed a youth detention system that leaves many children and young people more damaged than when they entered.

“The Territory’s youth detention facilities are not in line with modern standards and talk of ‘beefing up’ security as a result of last week’s incident will not assist in our goal of creating safer communities.

“We urge the Government to look at the evidence of what works in dealing with vulnerable children and young people, and get the balance between security and rehabilitation right for each individual child.”

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