Following damning allegations from Amnesty International last year denouncing the use of dogs, solitary confinement and excessive force in Queensland detention centres, the state government promised it would carry-out a series of reforms, including placing all 17-year-old offenders in the youth justice system, rather than keeping them in the adult system. The changes were to bring the state in line with the rest of Australia.
Under the pledged reforms, all 17-year-olds currently in adult prisons were to be transferred to youth detention.
However, due to overcrowding in the state's youth detention centres, the change will only apply to 17-year-olds charged after February 12, 2018, or those who have already been placed on community orders.
Queensland Youth Minister Di Farmer says there are more than sixty 17-year-olds in adult prisons, with around 35 eligible to transfer to youth detention when "it is safe to do so".
“It has become clear that we do not have sufficient capacity at our youth detention centres to safely cater for the transfer of those currently in adult prisons,” Ms Farmer said.
“Previous modelling indicated that we had sufficient capacity to do this, however, I am no longer confident that this is the case."
“We have had a significant spike in the number of youth detainees, with 230 currently across our two youth detention centres. This is above the highest monthly average population in recent years, which was 215 back in March last year.
“Because of this, we will delay the transfer of these young people to youth detention until the Director-General of my department is satisfied that it is safe to do so.”
Figures provided by the state government show the population at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre is currently 10 people over its capacity of 96, while the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre is six people short of its 130-strong capacity.
The Palaszczuk Government has committed $200 million over four years to implement its youth justice reforms.
Ms Farmer and former Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson, who's been tasked with overseeing the final implementation of the reforms, will meet with youth justice stakeholders tomorrow.