YOUNG Canberrans spent 22 per cent less time in juvenile detention over the 2012-13 financial year than in the previous year, with an even larger drop in the specific rate of detention for young people from indigenous backgrounds.Young people spent 6,525 days locked up in Bimberi Youth Justice Centre in 2011-12 compared to 8,347 in 2011-12, and its average population over the year fell by almost 20 per cent.
Over the same period, the number of young offenders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds remanded at Bimberi fell from 98 to 53, a reduction of just over 45 per cent.
Minister for Children and Young People Joy Burch says more young people are participating in education, work and recreation activities instead of being locked up in detention, and that “early indications are that this is decreasing the rate of reoffending in this population of serious young offenders”.
She says the “encouraging” figures are a sign that the Government’s focus on early intervention and diversion programs is working.
“I’m encouraged to see that a number of programs and policies that the Government has implemented in recent years have resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence and lengths of time young people are spending in custody,” Ms Burch says.
“We know that periods of detention are destabilising and disruptive to young people’s schooling and social engagement. Our focus on early intervention and diversion is having proven results, and these results validate the hard work and commitment of the Directorate.”
In particular, Ms Burch attributes the reduction in time spent in detention to two strategies under the Government’s long term “Blueprint for Youth Justice in the ACT 2012-22″, the After-Hours Bail Support Service and Bendora Transition Unit.
In the past year, the After-Hours Bail Support Service helped divert 26 young people from custody and the Bendora Transition Unit assisted 12 young people to transition from Bimberi to the community.
Ms Burch also praised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Justice Program Services Co-ordinating Group, which was established over 12 months ago, as well as partnerships between youth justice workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers and community members, who have worked together to coordinate programs for indigenous young people.
“All of these initiatives are instrumental in working to ensure that all Canberrans reached their potential and lived in a connected community,” she says. “We will continue to support the wellbeing and care of children and young people, while ensuring Canberra continues to be a safe community.”