Michelle Scott said that while the rate at which young people were coming into formal contact with police was decreasing, the rates of detention were increasing.
‘The number of young people in detention here in WA continues to remain higher than most other Australian states, despite our smaller population,’ she said.
‘Between April and June last year there was an average of 168 WA children and young people aged 10 to 17 in detention, compared to 63 in Victoria and 66 in South Australia.
The Department of Corrective Services 2012/13 annual report says it costs $645 a day to keep a young person in detention.
Ms Scott spoke about changes needed to reduce the number of young people in detention at the recent Youth Legal Service annual general meeting.
‘Importantly, we need to remodel our approach to children and young people who come into contact with the police and courts to focus on rehabilitation and diverting them from detention,’ she said.
‘We must also focus on early intervention to prevent the development of criminal and offending behaviours and work to divert these young people away from detention.
‘Research has shown that initiatives with the strongest chance of success provide employment training and education, psychiatric and psychological services, relationship and family support and treat drug and alcohol problems.’
Ms Scott said programs focusing on reducing the number of Aboriginal young people in detention and mental health rehabilitation should be a priority.
‘Detention should always be a last resort but that is not to say that as a society we should tolerate anti-social, dangerous behaviour ” we need to find better ways of dealing with the young perpetrators so we can break their cycle of offending and give them the best chance of getting their lives back on track.’
– During 2010/11 the number of young people
proceeded against by police dropped by 20
– Between April and June 2012 an average
168 WA children and young people aged 10-
17 were in detention
– Aboriginal young people comprise between
75 to 80 per cent of the youth detention
– It costs $645 a day to keep a young person