Melbourne News

Respect and rehabilitation for young people in custody

Friday 9 June 2017

As debate about the Youth Justice Reform Bill resumes in the lower house of the Victorian Parliament today, CatholicCare has signed a joint open letter, initiated by Smart Justice for Young People, that raises concerns about the Youth Justice Reform Bill and PSO Bill.

CatholicCare’s Head of Pastoral Services, Paul Zammit said ‘Advocacy that seeks a respectful and rehabilitative engagement with our children and young people is especially vital in the current environment, which is why we support the central plea of the Youth Justice Reforms, PSO Bill: A Joint Open Letter to the Attorney-General and Ministers Mikakos and Neville,’ which states:

Nobody wants more victims. We must make the most of every opportunity we have to engage children and address any circumstances of disadvantage behind their offending, and support them to prepare to make a positive and productive contribution to the community. Detention and punitive programs are likely to cause further harm to children and young people, and place them at risk of becoming chronic, long-term offenders. We need to do everything we can to keep our children safely away from prisons.

We call for debate on the bills to be suspended until after the release of the Armytage-Ogloff Review and for a consultative meeting with Government to identify appropriate evidence-based legislative and policy responses to issues in our youth justice system. The Youth Justice Ministerial Roundtable or the establishment of a Youth Justice Reform Working Group inclusive of our representatives and other stakeholders would provide an appropriate mechanism to finalise reforms that are in everyone’s best interests.

CatholicCare's Youth Justice Chaplaincy supports children and young people in the Parkville and Malmsbury custodial centres. We also work collaboratively with other agencies, such as Jesuit Social Services, who support young people in the parole and post release phases of custody.

‘Based on this experience of young peoples’ custodial journey, we agree that we need to support children and young people whose journeys, for so many reasons, intersect with the Youth Justice System,’ said Paul.

‘More broadly, CatholicCare joins many other agencies and bodies that support children and young people engaged in community based programs as well as those in detention in custodial centres.’

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