Incarceration of the young: where to from here?


p2279-Amnesty-2 By ERWIN CHLANDA
SA-NT president of Amnesty International Vicki Jacobs and two helpers came from Adelaide to Alice Springs to make a point on youth offending but fell foul of the law themselves.
OK. The town council ranger could have turned a blind eye as they had come a long way to raise awareness of an important issue.
But alas, the ranger didn’t, they didn’t have a permit, and so he moved on the trio from outside the office of Adam Giles in Hartley Street where they had wanted to protest about high rates of indigenous juvenile detention.
It sure wasn’t their day. A pamphlet they sought to distribute claimed that “across Australia children are held criminally responsible” from just 10 years of age instead of 12.
How many kids under 12 are involved in the NT, asked the Alice Springs News Online.
“We are still collecting information,” replied Ms Jacobs.
“At the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre young people are only separated from the adult prisoners by a fence,” claims the pamphlet.
JACOBS: Kids are treated like adults.
NEWS: They are separated by a fence.
JACOBS: They are not separated enough.
NEWS: How much of a separation do you think there should be?
JACOBS: We are advocating for justice reinvestment. Instead of putting money into having kids in detention, use that money as a way of keeping them out of detention, in the community. Do some restorative work as opposed to putting them in detention.
NEWS: Amnesty states indigenous young people are 26 times more likely to be in detention than non-indigenous young people. Is their offending rate just as high?
JACOBS: We are saying a large number of youngsters are put in detention.
NEWS: Why?
JACOBS: What we are looking at with restorative justice is putting money spent on having kids in detention on having them not in detention.
NEWS: Is the offending rate as large as the incarceration rate, or is it not?
JACOBS: I don’t have the definitive numbers. [We advocate] working with those kids in the community so they don’t re-offend, and using that money to stop them from offending in the first place. Keeping kids in community, learning about culture, learning about family.
NEWS: Are you working with the parents to achieve that?
JACOBS: We’re asking the government to fund programs to do just that. Amnesty is not working with families directly because there are a lot of good services around.
NEWS: Is it not up to the parents, rather than services, to do that?
JACOBS: It’s broader – it’s organisations, it’s governments, it’s community, it’s family.
NEWS: Young law breakers are often quite dangerous.
JACOBS: The justice reinvestment is to work with the juveniles so they don’t re-offend or offend in the first place.
NEWS: We have a string of organisations that aim to do just that, yet there seems to be an increase in offending.
JACOBS: That’s what Amnesty is trying to highlight. There is a really high incarceration rate.
NEWS: Because there is a high offending rate?
JACOBS: I don’t actually have the numbers on it.
And so the three campaigners pack up their pamphlets and posters and move on while the discussion keeps going ’round and ’round in circles.
A day later the police release the kind of statement the town has learned to dread: “Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Malley said a 39-year-old man was riding his bicycle in an easterly direction along Undoolya Road at around 10:10pm on Saturday, 3 October when it is alleged six males assaulted him.
“The offenders are described as being of Indigenous appearance, aged between 16 and 18 years, all wearing dark clothing. Some of the offenders were wearing baseball caps, one the males was wearing a yellow LA Lakers cap, while some of the offenders were wearing white socks.”
PHOTO: Ms Jacobs talking to the council ranger.


  1. Did Amnesty stop to consider that Indigenous kids may be offending because they are given money and possessions without having to work for it.
    It actually is reinforcing the idea that they are above the law – don’t have to follow instructions from anyone including their parents, teachers, police but will be rewarded for criminal acts.
    They are starting teaching this idea from before school age and thus Amnesty is not safe in this town.
    What they need is to be taught to respect everyone’s property and to take the chances they are given to get ahead without falling foul of the law so they can be proud of themselves and their culture without destroying others.

  2. Good one, Erwin. Those do-gooders come up from down south for a week to talk about human rights, efficacy and justice: but you’re too smart to fall for that.
    Sure prevention, may be better (and cheaper) than cure, but the fact that a horrible crime was committed just the next day proves how right we are to spend whatever it takes to maintain tough, punitive and reactive policy settings. #logic.

  3. An equally interesting part of this story is that an unconstitutionally recognized body believes that their bylaws are sufficient to remove the right of protest. Sorry council, you are dreaming.
    If this is the best use of town rangers then it makes another observation understandable:
    Whilst enjoying a breakfast at Araluen Park on Saturday I noticed that the bins were too full to put waste in.
    Half an hour later a ute with two rangers does a drive through the park with out addressing the waste issue.
    So here we have the rate payers forking out money to pay for two employees (on a Saturday) and the cost of a vehicle and they fail in one of their “big R’s” – Rubbish!
    Anyone still unsure why rates increase more then inflation? Substantial resources achieving nothing is the answer.

  4. Great journalism Erwin!
    Like a lot of other “protesters” they can’t answer the hard questions and in fact seem to have no idea about the dire straights of the genuinely incarcerated.
    There are a number of similar organisations (I was once a financial supporter of Amnesty International) who have lost their traditional membership and support base and gone feral.
    The real tragedy is that the current model of AI make it possible for the tyrants of the world to continue to imprison and torture. Amnesty International lost credibility and therefore clout a long time ago.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here