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Jesuit alarmed by Vic Govt broken promise on children in adult prisons

Fr Peter Norden of Jesuit Social Services has pointed out that Victoria's Bracks Government is continuing to allow adult criminal courts jurisdiction over 17 year olds, despite its election pledge at the last two State elections to change the age jurisdiction to 18.

In a paper written for today's Human Rights Day, Fr Norden sets out four case studies in an attempt to persuade the Victorian community that it's time to consider the consequences of the broken election promise.

He quotes 17 year old Dame Phyllis Frost women's prison inmate "Sophie", who explained to a community support worker what happened: "From the first day, I was looked after by one of the heavies and she gave me heroin from the word go. But because I wasn't eighteen, I wasn't allowed to buy cigarettes from the prison canteen. It was a real joke".

Fr Norden said that Queensland is the only other state that allows young people who are legally minors to be sent to adult prisons.

He admitted that the number of 17 year olds in adult prisons remains small, but the Government has nevertheless resisted acting on its undertaking to change the law. He called on the Victorian Attorney General to make the change as soon as possible.

"Does it take the loss of a life, or a serious sexual assault of a young person in an adult prison to bring the matter to the public's attention and to raise the pressure on government to act?"

Children in Adult Prisons in Victoria (Jesuit Social Services 10/12/03)

Jesuit Social Services
Jesuit challenging States on "prison" youth strategy (CathNews 1/12/03)

10 Dec 2003