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Jesuit challenging States on "prison" youth strategy

Jesuit Social Services Policy Director Fr Peter Norden says several State and Territory authorities are spending tens of millions of dollars incarcerating the poor and the homeless in juvenile remand facilities, instead of providing community-based housing and support services at a much cheaper rate.

In a paper to be delivered at the Australian Institute of Criminology Conference in Sydney today, Fr Norden will challenge State authorities to address "totally unacceptable" remand rates in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

"Queensland has 70% of its youth inmates on remand, and only 30% sentenced, which is indicative of incarcerating the poor and the homeless" he said. "It is time for many State leaders to get serious about responding to the real needs of disadvantaged young Australians and to stop making political mileage by beating the law and order drum."

"What our political leaders need to do is to provide essential housing and mental health services within the community for those in need and they will save millions of dollars each year", he added.

Fr Norden, a former Melbourne Prison Chaplain with more than 30 years experience of work with young offenders, identifies the over-representation of indigenous youth in detention by nineteen as "a national disgrace".

"Even excluding indigenous offenders, the rate of incarceration of young people varies from a low of 9.6 per 100,000 in Victoria to as high as 17.1 in New South Wales, 17.2 in South Australia and 41.2 in the Northern Territory," he explained.

National Juvenile Crime Conference Challenged (Jesuit Social Services 1/12/03)

Jesuit Social Services
Australian Institute of Criminology | Conference: Juvenile justice : from the lessons of the past to a road map for the future
Jesuit says Pauline Hanson prison shock is real (CathNews 10/11/03)
Fr Peter Norden: Death in detention (Kairos 27/7/03)
Jesuit spells out lessons of stockbroker Rivkin's detention (CathNews 11/6/03)

31 Dec 2003