A new $350,000 pilot program aimed at reducing violence and conflict at Youth Justice Centres could soon help Greater Shepparton youths turn their lives around.
The Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice centres will be targeted in the two-year program in a bid to help youths in custody develop stronger relationships and make better life choices.
While Shepparton’s Camerons Lawyers associate Shana McDonald welcomed the news, she warned the community should not be sold the idea that children can enter prison, engage in a program and be rehabilitated upon their release.
“Youth justice centres are a horrible place for a child,” she said.
“There is no evidence that rehabilitation and diversion away from the criminal justice system is achieved through programs delivered in prisons. Yet there is strong evidence that once a child enters a prison their risk of reoffending is significantly increased, and prison becomes a revolving door.”
Having worked in youth justice for the past 10 years, Ms McDonald questioned why children should only receive access to similar programs when in prison.
Believing early intervention is the key, Ms McDonald said funding would be better spent on community programs to prevent children from entering the criminal justice system.
“Generally these children come from trauma backgrounds, have been removed from family and exited from the education system due to their challenging behaviours,” she said.
“Once a child enters a prison they become stigmatised and it is extremely difficult to break the cycle of offending.”
Youth Justice Minister Natalie Hutchins announced the funding for the pilot program on September 16, citing the use of restorative justice principles to teach young people how to manage conflict and interpersonal relationships in custody.
She said restorative justice helped to build positive, respectful relationships that encouraged youth to take accountability for their actions and address any harm that may have occurred.
The funding comes following the government’s Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030, launched earlier this year, to prevent crime, reduce reoffending and provide opportunities for young people to turn their lives around.
“Through this trial we’re supporting young people to make better decisions and reduce reoffending by better managing conflict and interpersonal relationships,” Ms Hutchins said.
“Our youth justice staff work in complex and challenging environments; this trial will make a significant contribution to ensuring that they are supported to do this safely.”
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