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Queensland feels pressure to remove children from adult prisons

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath. Photo: Tertius PickardQueensland is inching closer to removing children from its adult justice system, as it approaches its 25th anniversary of breaching international law.
Nanjing Night Net

In what was meant to be a ‘temporary’ measure, Queensland broke ranks with every other jurisdiction in Australia in 1992, with the Goss Government moving the age a person is considered to be an adult by the justice system from 18 to 17, in defiance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and international law.

While the Palaszczuk Government has wound back Newman Government measures that saw sentencing removed as a last resort for juveniles and the transfer of children to adult facilities on their 17th birthday, if they had 6 months or more remaining on their sentence, the number of children in adult prisons has continued to grow.

In 2011 there were 35 people aged 17 in Queensland adult jails, 29 of them on remand. The latest figures show 50 17-year-olds were imprisoned in adult correctional facilities.

But Labor sources have said the government is moving to lift the age where the courts consider an individual an adult back to 18, following ongoing pressure from the Human Rights Commission, the state’s law bodies, the United Nations and within the party itself.

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath, who changed the trigger inmates were moved to adult correctional facilities to 18, with courts given the power to allow an additional six-months in a juvenile facility if it is considered appropriate, said the move had been on her mind.

“I have heard people talk about – ‘it is about the dollars’ – it is a lot more complex than simply what the cost of housing 17-year-olds in youth detention is,” she said last week.

“Because you are talking – at the moment we have approximately 160-170 youth across two youth detention centres.

“We have currently about 50 17-year-olds in the adult corrective services system.

“Putting 50 extra 17-year-olds in to a youth detention centre where we have 10, 11, 12-year-olds and we have both males and females mixing together, in those youth detention centres, my responsibility is to ensure the safety of all of those young people, not just the 17-years-olds.

“So you have to look at the complexity of the programs and how you would manage those 17-year-olds in that environment, with those numbers, with other younger detainees.

“So those are the issues which certainly I have been turning my mind to.

“There is no fixed time frame, it is a complex issue, but it is something that I am looking at and doing a body of work on into the future as far as we manage that.”

But the government is also feeling increased pressure to alter the Queensland-only policy following the spotlight the Northern Territory Don Dale case has put on juvenile justice issues, with many within the party expecting a shift in policy to be announced before the end of the year.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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