Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coalition to review juvenile justice

ABC Online, 18 March 2010:
The New South Wales Opposition will review plans to spend $30m expanding the Riverina's youth jail in Wagga Wagga.
The Labor candidate for Wagga and former worker at the Juvenile Justice Centre Glenn Elliott Rudder said the spending is needed to modernise the facility and to address overcrowding problems. It would bring capacity to 60 people.
The Opposition's Justice spokesman Greg Smith is not prepared to commit to the rebuild of the youth jail as an election promise.
"If they've actually started buiding, then maybe we will but if I become the minister for Juvenile Justice I would want to have a review of any of these proposals to see whether the expenditure is warranted and secondly what are the community interests in going ahead with such expansion," he said.
The Opposition is proposing a softer approach to juvenile offenders if the Coalition wins the election Mr Smith said former Labor Juvenile Justice Minister Graham West resigned over the government's refusal to consider alternatives to jail. Mr Smith said Labor has encouraged police to crack down on young people breaking curfews.
He said the Coalition would take a more considered approach, including a review of the Bail Act.
"I'm concerned about the high jailing rate, particularly of Aboriginal youth," he said.
"But so many of these cases seem to be remand situations where they've been refused bail or bail has been revoked.
"And some of these people are charged with offences that don't even carry jail, the maximum penalty's a fine.
"And it's just most improper and most wrong to jail people in that situation."
The Coalition may implement recommendations of a juvenile justice report to reduce the high youth jailing rate in New South Wales. A major review commissioned by the government recommended early intervention, prevention programs and services in communities instead of jails.
Mr Smith said Labor rejected the findings, sparking the resignation of former Juvenile Justice Minister Graham West.
"He was concerned about the high rate of juveniles being jailed and the fact the reoffending rate in NSW was so high compared to other states," he said.
"I applauded his courage in taking this stand and I condemn the government for not following his proposals, because they sounded like enlightened proposals."
Young offenders with a history of homelessness are the focus of a new supported accommodation service in the Riverina. The Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice, John Hubby said Mission Australia will run the three year program, costing one and a half million dollars. Mr Hubby said accommodation will be available to offenders aged 13 to 18, and will focus on improving social skills, providing educational opportunities and counselling.

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