A Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile detention is an important first step after the appalling evidence from last night’s Four Corners, but this Royal Commission must be expanded to cover all states and territories.
There is a crisis in our prisons that is not just limited to the Northern Territory, and across the country there are a grossly disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in juvenile detention.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The Prime Minister supporting a Royal Commission is a good first step, but any inquiry must be expanded nationally to recognise that the crisis in our juvenile detention system is a national issue that goes well beyond the Northern Territory.
“In NSW Aboriginal children make up just over 2% of the population yet account for 56% of juvenile detainees. This is grossly disproportionate.
“Aboriginal people continue to bear the brunt of a failed law and order auction, with the number of young people in jail because they have been refused bail surging.
“There needs to be a national commitment to addressing this gross discrimination against Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
“A national Royal Commission is essential for two reasons: First, this is not just an NT problem with Indigenous children across the country 24 times more likely to be in jail than non-indigenous children. Second, a Royal Commission needs a national perspective to see not only what’s broken but also what works.
“Any Royal Commission must also go beyond just inquiring into the prison system and look at the failure of accountability in the nation’s correctional facilities.
“This failure of accountability is at the most extreme in the Northern Territory where clearly the government has failed on all levels and there are credible concerns that the judiciary is unable or unwilling to hold them to account.
“Remarkably in the Northern Territory, victims of state abuse only have 28 days to bring legal proceedings against the government. This effectively removes the right to redress in 90% of cases.
“Poor training, guidance, leadership and a fundamental lack of oversight have helped to create a prison system that produces the outcomes evidenced in last night’s Four Corners.
“With the estimated cost of keeping a young person in a NSW prison at $652 per day, this is funding that could clearly be redirected to justice reinvestment programs.
“Jailing children is the best way to produce disengaged poorly educated and angry adults who in turn will enter adult prisons. That’s not a solution any sane government should be routinely resorting to.
“We know what works in reducing re-offending and producing safer communities, it’s called Justice Reinvestment.
“Justice Reinvestment is where brave governments redirect money from police, courts and jails to education, health and outreach programs.
“Justice Reinvestment doesn’t make good headlines in the Murdoch press, but it works for children and communities, and it’s time we committed to it as a nation.” Mr Shoebridge said.