The recent riots and escapes of inmates held in youth justice centres in Victoria has led to unprecedented action by the Andrews Labor government. Not only did they announce last year that a unit in the adult maximum security Barwon Prison would be now dedicated to sentenced youths, but they have also placed Corrections Victoria staff in the Malmsbury and Parkville youth detention centres.
Youth detention centres, previously staffed by trained Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) workers now will have extra “support and security” from the riot squads that are bought in to adult prisons, including the Security and Emergency Service Group and the Emergency Response Group. Both groups exist to put a quick and repressive end to any unrest.
By April the Government plans to move all custodial services, community based youth justice and youth justice policy into the hands of the Department of Justice and Regulation and completely out of the hands of DHHS. This significant move will effectively hand over the care of extremely troubled children and teens to the justice system, moving even further away from any resemblance of rehabilitative care.
Such a move could in some ways have been predicted last year when the government placed several of the “rioters” from Malmsbury in an adult prison that holds some of the most notorious adult offenders in the state.
These moves will do nothing to either improve the situation or outlook for the children and teens concerned or address the reasons why many of them rioted in the first place. The conditions in youth detention across the country are not acceptable, and few resources are allocated to actually provide them with a chance to address the issues that lead to their offending – namely homelessness, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty.
By Gabriella Sanchez