• A youth detention centre (AAP)Source: AAP
As Queensland's youth detention centres struggle to cope with overcrowding, the State Government has released a new strategy to "better prevent and respond" to youth crime.
Ella Archibald-Binge

11 Dec 2018 - 4:29 PM  UPDATED 11 Dec 2018 - 4:29 PM

A new youth justice strategy from the Palaszczuk Government will focus on crime prevention and prison alternatives to reduce youth re-offending by 5% by 2022.

The report, released on Tuesday, follows several incidents in the state's youth detention centres, including reports of young people forced to sleep on floors or spend weeks in police watch houses due to overcrowding.

The majority of youth offenders are detained for property offences, the report says. 

Six out of 10 young people who came into contact with the justice system had a diagnosed or suspected mental health/behavioural disorder, half had left school or were unemployed, 50% had been involved with child protection services and one in five were homeless.

More than 80% of youth who left detention returned within 12 months.

“Evidence shows that by placing young offenders in detention, they are more likely to re-offend," Youth Minister Di Farmer said on Tuesday.

"We can’t continue to keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different result.

“We need to do what works."

Indigenous youth 31 times more likely to be detained

The strategy includes a commitment to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to reduce the number of Indigenous youth in prison - particularly those detained on remand while awaiting trial. 

In 2016-17, 86% of young people in Queensland prisons were on remand, which lasted an average of 36 days, although some were held on remand for months. 

Indigenous young people are 31 times more likely to be held in custody than their non-Indigenous peers, accounting for 70% of youth detained on remand and 78% of those serving a sentence. 

"We need to work with families and communities, engaging them as part of the solution," the report says.

"This includes empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to prevent and deal with crime in their communities and to help design effective community-led initiatives to address youth justice issues."  

One of the report's key diversionary initiatives is the use of restorative justice conferences, whereby young offenders meet the victims of their crime to discuss the harm they caused, and how they can repair the damage. 

Other initiatives include a focus on:

  • Early intervention - improving childhood health and education, including alternative schooling options for disengaged youth;
  • Keeping children out of court through localised diversion programs;
  • Keeping children out of custody - engaging youth in education, training or employment, undertaking mental health assessments to determine fitness for trial, implementing cultural programs with Elders;
  • Reducing re-offending - extending intensive case management, ensuring access to disability support services.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has criticised the strategy for being too lenient. 

"Again, we see a Labor government that is putting the criminals before the victims," she told media on Tuesday.

"What we say to these youth offenders is that if you do the crime, you should be doing the time."

Ms Frecklington said the government's target to reduce youth crime by 5% by 2022 was too conservative. 

She said the LNP's solution to overcrowding in youth detention would be to build another centre. 

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