Community needs to keep young people out of detention

On 8th December 2016 the ABC published an article which stated

“Almost 100 juvenile offenders have been interviewed by Western Australia’s Children’s Commissioner to try and determine what factors led them to crime.

“Commissioner Colin Pettit, in partnership with the Department of Corrective Services, interviewed 92 children who had been in Perth’s Banksia Hill Detention Centre, or undertaken community-based supervision orders.  They found that state’s juvenile offenders overwhelmingly come from dysfunctional families and many have witnessed violence and drug use at home”.

“Community needs to help keep young people out of detention’

“Mr Pettit said the number of youths in detention is decreasing but the report will be used as part of an approach to curb the number that end up in detention.

“It can’t just be done by one person. So we need agencies and not-for-profits and the communities themselves and the families to start to work together for the sake of the young people to keep them out of detention,” he said”.

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In September 2016 we issued a press release which stated:

Uniting Church WA calls for new policy on social reinvestment

The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Western Australia, has agreed at its annual meeting to support a change in WA’s approach to criminal justice, asking to move towards a more holistic, prevention-based approach that prioritises cultural, social and emotional wellbeing for people at risk of incarceration.

The Uniting Church WA will write to the West Australian Premier and Opposition Leader requesting their support.

The persistent and growing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system, particularly among young people in Western Australia, necessitates an urgent overhaul of West Australia’s policies relating to the criminal justice system.

The Uniting Church WA is a member of the Social Reinvestment WA working group along with leading agencies and organisations.

Social Reinvestment is a holistic and evidence based approach to improving community safety, the wellbeing of families and individuals, and reducing the number of people ending up in prison. The approach is based on the three complementary pillars of Smart Justice, Safe Communities and Healthy Families.

Social Reinvestment WA reported that approximately 40-45% of adults and 58% of children who are released from prison return there within two years. By comparison, just 12.8% of people sentenced to programs in the community have further contact with corrections within the following two-year period.

Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA, said that it is time for a new approach.

“There are states around the world that are already using the social reinvestment model and achieving great results for their people. The evidence is clear that the ‘tough on crime’ approach is not creating safer communities. It’s time that WA moved towards policies which supported those who are vulnerable to entering and re-entering the justice system, to break this cycle now,” Steve said.

Rev Sealin Garlett, chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (Congress) WA Regional Committee affirms the decision.

“The Uniting Church and Congress stand together in dealing with this injustice, for the wholeness of our community. We need to harness the work for justice for all. We need to invest our time for the richness of our community,” Sealin said.

The Uniting Church WA has advocated for improvements to the West Australian justice system, including calls for an end to mandatory sentencing, addressing prison overcrowding and reforms to the processing of women, people with disabilities, mental illness and drug-related problems who enter the justice system, for more than 15 years.

We continue to work with Social Reinvestment WA  who state:

Our people and allies have been fighting for this for years and we acknowledge that many have come before us, but we needed to take action and form a new strategic approach to changing the Justice System in WA once and for all.

This small group expanded into a working group of almost 20 organisations, who have been toiling since 2014 to develop a Social Reinvestment Framework and Campaign for WA.

The situation is dire for Aboriginal people in WA. Imprisonment is economically, as well as socially costly, and it often fails to make our communities safer. Social Reinvestment strategies are far more effective and less expensive than imprisonment.



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