Youth justice reduction targets would save Victoria millions

Ahead of the Victorian State Budget 2018-19, Jesuit Social Services has called on the State Government to disrupt the pipeline to prison by setting targets to reduce re-offending, lowering the number of young people on remand and investing in diversion programs and community services.

“Youth crime will be one of the most scrutinized issues in the lead-up to the Victorian State Budget and this year’s state election, and we call on both major parties to commit to building an evidence-based system that focuses on early intervention to prevent crime, diverting young people away from the system wherever possible as well as youth detention facilities based on best practice in other jurisdictions,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

In its submission to the Victorian State Budget 2018-19, Jesuit Social Services recommends the Victorian Government set targets to reduce recidivism, incarceration and the number of young people on remand, as well as separate targets to reduce the over-representation of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the system.

Accompanying analysis by the organisation shows that a reduction of 20 per cent in Victoria’s youth detention population would save the State almost $20 million ($19.1m) each year.

If the 20 per cent reduction in the youth detention population could be maintained over a 15 year period, the savings would reach $300 million, roughly the same amount that has been allocated to build a new youth justice facility at Cherry Creek.

“Reducing the number of young people in detention by focusing efforts and investments into preventing them from having contact with the justice system in the first place makes sense on every level. When detention is necessary, a system focused on rehabilitation and resocialization will reduce the chances of young people reoffending on their return to the community.

“We must invest in community services such as early childhood, education and alcohol and drug services, and provide opportunities for young people to be steered away from detention when they do commit offences. This ultimately results in less crime, fewer victims and safer communities. We need to stop the trend of building more prisons which is extremely costly and ineffective.”

Jesuit Social Services’ submission also includes a range of recommendations spanning education, child protection, employment and training, housing and mental health services, including trialling interventions to respond to boys aged 8-14 years at risk of disengaging with school and expanding restorative justice conferencing to out-of-home care placements.

“These vital services are critical points of intervention before people have contact with the justice system. The 2018-19 Budget provides valuable opportunities for Victoria to support vulnerable people to reset their lives in positive directions.”

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Media enquiries – Kathryn Kernohan, 0499 901 248 or kathryn.kernohan@jss.org.au