Commissioner calls for continued debate on better responses for young offenders
01 May 2012
NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Megan Mitchell, says that figures on young offenders justify a whole-of-community rethink on juvenile justice.
"The open debate and discussion in the media over the past few days is a huge step in the right direction. I congratulate the NSW Attorney General for his leadership in this area,” Ms Mitchell said.
Data now released in the Commission’s online databook, A picture of NSW children, shows that in NSW almost 80 per cent of 10–17 year olds convicted of an offence in 1994 were reconvicted of another offence within the next 15 years. Of these, 40 per cent were reconvicted within one year; 54.7 per cent within two years; and 62.0 per cent within three years.
“On an average day in NSW in 2009/10, 165 children aged 10 to 17 were in sentenced detention representing a steady increase over the previous five years. Aboriginal children and children from far western or north western NSW were over-represented,” Ms Mitchell said.
Added to this, another 219 children were in unsentenced detention.
“These troubling figures sourced from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research highlight the need for fundamental reform of our approach to juvenile justice.
“We have to acknowledge that the children and young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system are some of the most vulnerable in the state, and that their experience in the system is not making the difference we would hope for,” Ms Mitchell said.
Children with mental health problems and cognitive impairment are over-represented in the juvenile justice system and just under 50 per cent had had a parent in prison.
For those children already at risk, Ms Mitchell pointed to family-focused programs delivered in the community, including education, mentoring, and programs targeting specific behaviours or groups, as well as programs that engage the child’s support and family networks. According to Ms Mictchell these approaches are promising alternatives to treating the child in isolation and have been shown to be effective.
A picture of NSW children, produced in collaboration with the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre, is available online at www.picture.kids.nsw.gov.au. It brings together information about the lives of more than 1.6 million children in NSW, from a range of major data sources.
Bruce Williams (02) 9286 7239 or 0413 452 498
Daniela Marchetta (02) 9286 7232 or 0407 200 960