Government changes will undermine Victoria’s youth justice system Justice and Human Rights

Government changes will undermine Victoria’s youth justice system

The Victorian Government is rushing through dangerously regressive legislation that will make the state’s youth justice system cruel and less effective.

The Youth Justice Reform Bill and the Protective Service Officers Bill are likely to attract bi-partisan support and pass the Parliament this sitting week.

In a detailed submission to the Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, VCOSS warns the Bills will:

  • INFRINGE on the human rights of young Victorians
  • UNDERMINE Victoria’s successful ‘dual track system’
  • BLUR the lines between the youth and adult justice systems
  • EXACERBATE the preconditions for violence in Victoria’s youth prisons
  • OBSTRUCT young people who are trying to rehabilitate, and
  • GIVE PSOs too much power, including to search and detain kids without parental consent.

“These Bills fly in the face of a growing body of evidence on ‘what works’ in youth justice,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.

“The Government is doing things that look tough but will not make the Victorian community any safer,” she said.

Ms King also raised concerns about the Government’s suggestion that only “suitable” young people should be given the opportunity to rehabilitate.

“This is an alarming statement that must be called out.

“All Victorian children caught up in the justice system deserve the opportunity to rehabilitate. Every single one.

“Our politicians shouldn’t be throwing any kids in the ‘too hard’ basket,” Ms King said.

Ms King noted the new proposed changes were occurring amid a broader adoption of debunked or counterproductive policy measures, including the construction of an outdated ‘supermax’ youth jail and attempts to unlawfully house young offenders in an adult prison.

Ms King said Victoria’s justice system was once the envy of Australia, but the state is slowly surrendering its leadership position.

“Increasingly, Victoria is adopting policies that deliberately hurt young offenders and stymie their rehabilitation, for no meaningful gain.

“Being tough on crime and being smart on crime are two very different things.”