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#WorthASecondChance, campaigning for the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children

It has been a challenging week for those of us who care deeply about the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children. Monday night's Four Corners program on ABC TV exposed the shocking and inhumane treatment of children, including primary school aged children, in Brisbane City Watch House. This included children being kept in isolation for days on end.

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the shocking news that the number of children and young people in Victoria’s prisons has increased by 36 per cent over the past five years - despite an overall drop in young people coming into contact with the justice system.

There was an average of 148 children and young people in detention per day in Victoria in 2013/14, compared to an average of 202 per day in 2017/18.

In light of these reports, Jesuit Social Services reiterates its call for a national youth justice strategy, to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years of age and an increased focus on keeping children out of prison at every opportunity.

2019 Federal Election
The 2019 Federal Election will take place on Saturday, May 18.
Jesuit Social Services have called on the incoming Federal Government to commit to a range of initiatives to work towards a more humane justice system including:
  • Developing and committing to a National Youth Justice Strategy
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility to the age of 14 across all states and territories
  • Banning the use of isolation in youth justice facilities
  • Supporting the Northern Territory Government in its efforts to give full effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.     
As reported in its last bulletin, there is some positive momentum around raising the age of criminal responsibility, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA) supporting a policy calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 years in recognition that “criminalising the behaviour of young and vulnerable children creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage and forces children to become entrenched in the criminal justice system”.

Put simply, primary school aged children should be in school – not prison.

2019 Victorian State Budget
Jesuit Social Services' vision for the youth justice system is to enable young people who offend (or are at risk of offending) to lead healthy, productive and crime-free lives. To achieve this, our purpose must be rehabilitation.
It calls the Victorian Government to set targets to reduce youth offending, recidivism, incarceration, and the number of young people on remand in this month’s 2019-20 Victorian State Budget.
Specific corresponding targets should also be set for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
Read Jesuit Social Services' full list of Budget recommendations here.

Australian Youth Justice Conference

Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards recently delivered a keynote address at the Australasian Youth Justice Conference in Sydney.

Julie discussed finding solutions for youth justice systems across Australia, drawing on international perspectives from the organisation’s #JusticeSolutions tours of parts of the US, Europe and, more recently, New Zealand.

Recommended reading and listening
This lecture was presented by Dr Baz Dreisinger, Professor of English, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, on the topic, “Race, Class, Gender and Mass Incarceration”. This was followed by an expert panel discussion of key Indigenous and non-Indigenous professionals who discussed the endemic incarceration targeting Indigenous people in Australia, and other low socioeconomic groups around the world.
This interview with director Maya Newell highlights intimate new documentary In My Blood it Runs, which was made in Alice Springs and follows a charismatic 10 year old boy who is having run-ins with then police and juvenile justice system.
This article, by editors of the USA’s Criminal Justice Contact and Inequality journal, urges candidate in America’s 2020 Presidential election to think as boldly about criminal justice as they do about health care and climate change. “The type of country we want to have depends on these decisions,” they write.

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