LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Fifty-two new youth diversion workers, a greater focus on victims, and record funding for diversionary programs (including boot camps) is at the heart of the most comprehensive overhaul of the youth justice system in the history of the Northern Territory.
An additional $18.2m (including $10m in new funding) will be spent annually to help stop crime before it happens and break the cycle of crime that has been going on for far too long.
The youth justice system is broken and today is the first big step towards fixing it. The major components of the reform package include:-
The 52 youth diversion workers based in Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs will be co-located with police, education and NGO providers. This workforce will commence immediately and be operational in all regions within three months. The officers will:-
• Provide professional support to courts and police to improve sentencing and diversion decisions;
• Provide early-intervention, case management and co-ordinate after hours youth activities in each region;
• Support enforcement of bail conditions to protect the public and reintegrate young people back into the community.
We will provide An additional $6m a year for NGOs to deliver evidence-based diversion programs that work (more than doubling their funding).
These programs will include wilderness programs and boot camps either in the NT or other jurisdictions, focussing on skill development, road safety and drug and alcohol education. They will provide diversion options for police and the courts.
For the first time in Territory history young offenders on bail will be provided with individualised support and a comprehensive range of programs to stop reoffending and meet bail conditions.
This support will be provided by youth diversion workers as well as the NGO sector, including options for accommodation while on bail.
There will be an expansion of youth justice and victims’ conferencing so victims can tell the offender about the impact of their behaviour.
This conferencing is used in all Australian jurisdictions and is known to significantly reduce the likelihood of re-offending when compared to prosecution. Victims of crime are more satisfied with the justice process when they are given a voice. This will be established within three months.
We are working with justice, NGOs and the Royal Commission on implementing these reforms so that young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system are dealt with in line with community expectations, but also are given the best chance of rehabilitation so they don’t become long-term criminals.
We want these reforms to hold young people accountable for their actions and break the cycle of crime that has been going on for far too long. Police do a great job catching problem youths but we need to help them stop crime by supporting the enforcement of bail conditions and providing more options for rehabilitation.
The NT Government last month announced 18 additional, experienced frontline officers will be allocated to target youth crime as part of Taskforce Sonoma – a Territory-wide operation. 120 additional police will be employed this term of Government.
OPPOSITION LEADER GARY HIGGINS REPLIES
Sir – The government’s response to the juvenile crime crisis fails to address the immediate crime crisis and avoids the tough measures required to deal with repeat offenders.
”It doesn’t address the hard-core repeat offenders that account for 90 per cent of property crimes, who have repeatedly gone through diversion programs or been in detention.
Bail officers will not be able to be with offenders 24/7 – as opposed to electronic monitoring which is a constant deterrent to offending while on bail or home detention.
It shirks the job of setting youth on a better path – the most effective way to reduce repeat offending is through vocational training and education in conjunction with traditional diversion and boot camps.
And it fails to short-circuit the current crime wave as repeat offenders will still be granted bail and the new policy will take three months to fully implement. Increased electronic monitoring and a more visible police presence right now are required to secure businesses and homeowners being hit by this crime wave.
The Government also needs to target some of its funding towards measuring the outcomes of its expenditure so the community is able to monitor the effectiveness or otherwise of its scheme.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR