• A photo released in 2016 shows guards surrounding a child in a Townsville detention centre. (AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL) (Supplied (Amnesty International))Source: Supplied (Amnesty International)
This is in a state where Indigenous young people are 17 times more likely to be under youth justice supervision.
13 Jul 2018 - 12:00 PM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2018 - 4:59 PM

Children and teens who commit minor crimes should be kept out of Queensland's court system, according to a review that aims to stem youth crime.

Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson, who has led a review of Queensland's youth justice system, says the focus must be on prevention and diversion programs.

His recommendations include keeping minor offences by young people out of the courts, more flexible options to keep young Queenslanders engaged in education, and support for parents as early as the prenatal stage.

"I do think without being "soft" in any way, there are more sensible and better ways we can approach a whole range of issues," Mr Atkinson told reporters on Friday.

"Do we want the courts clogged up with children who commit minor offences?

"What we're saying is if there's a program which a child can be diverted to, that might assist preventing that reoffending."

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Debbie Kilroy, founder of prisoner advocacy group Sisters Inside and a member of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, welcomed the report but described it a “stepping stone”.

She said that more needed to be done to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous young people in the justice system.

“We have to address racism in our carceral state,” she told NITV News.

“Any child is better at home than in a prison.”

Ms Kilroy also suggested that bolstering social services and granting law enforcement officers greater leniency would reduce offending rates.

“It means giving police the discretion not to charge children.”

According to a separate report released in May, on an “average day” in 2016-17 , the number of young people – aged between 10 and 17 – under youth justice supervision in Queensland was 1416.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in May found that fewer young people were under supervision but Indigenous over-representation was rising.

The report, titled 'Youth justice in Australia 2016–17', also said in Queensland that Indigenous young people were 17 times more likely to be in youth justice supervision as non-Indigenous young people.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said one such program already being operated where young people were made to confront their victims had resulted in a 41 per cent reduction in reoffending rates.

The review follows initial moves by the Labor government to remove 17-year-old offenders from adult prisons and investment in diversion programs.

In February, Youth Minister Di Farmer said transferring 17-year-olds from adult prisons would be delayed because youth detention centres were already full after a spike in the number of detainees.

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On Friday, Ms Farmer said seven 17 year olds remained in adult jails in Queensland, with an expectation there would be no 17 year olds in the adult system by October.

"A number of those young people still in the adult system actually chose to stay there," Ms Farmer said.

"That can often be because they're doing programs which they're getting something out of, they have friends or family in the facility with them or they're close to family locally."

The minister said the government would now tour the report around the state to get feedback from local communities about the 77 recommendations and how they could be implemented most effectively.

AAP with NITV staff