These are our #14reasons for #RaisingtheAgeIn Australia children as young as 10 are imprisoned each year, held in youth detention centres, away from their families and communities, enduring significant mental harm.
While children that are 10 years old are not yet even in high school, they may be incarcerated. These children generally come from disadvantaged backgrounds and low income communities. They generally have not been able to access the opportunities that many of us take for granted. Many are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders that come from families that have faced generational disadvantages.
Most simply put, children should be educated, and have access to care and support services. They should be able to be nurtured and afforded the opportunity to succeed.
Research has conclusively shown that children lack the capacity to comprehend their actions fully, as they are not fully developed. This means that they are not always aware of the implications and consequences of their actions.
With over 300 Aboriginal children in remand, Aboriginal children are the most impacted by current laws. Many of these children are already in a position of disadvantage as is evident within closing the gap reporting.
Long term research within a number of comparable countries has shown that raising the age of legal responsibility does not increase crime, it actually significantly reduces crime. To learn more about the research please contact us.
Most of the children that are put into prison come from disadvantaged backgrounds so putting them into prison puts them at risk and reinforces the disadvantages that they already face.
Justice reinvestment has been proven to be an effective tool to reduce crime and recidivism, imprisoning children has not been shown to reduce crime, with research indicating that raising the age of responsibility actually reduces the rate of offending.
This is perhaps unsurprising but many of the children in prison have been victims of violence or abuse and have faced major social and economic disadvantage, through no fault of their own
There is a huge body of research that strongly suggests that imprisoning a child makes them more likely to commit further crime. Analysis of prisoner groups has shown that the effect may actually increase criminal incidents by around 15%.
While many of us take for granted the completing our schooling and accessing employment, it is a struggle for many that come from a position of disadvantage, this is only exacerbated by imprisonment at a young age. Research shows that individuals that have been incarcerated are less likely to complete their studies.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the majority of young people exposed to the justice system have come from significantly disadvantage backgrounds. They often come from families that have faced generations of disadvantage, putting them into detention entrenches their disadvantage.
The mental harm caused by imprisonment is significant. Children in prison often already suffer from mental health issues, putting them in prison only makes it worse.
Research has conclusively shown that raising the age of criminal responsibility results in lower rates of repeat crime, this in simple terms means that individuals that are not exposed to the criminal justice system early in life are less likely to commit crimes later in life.
Nearly all developed countries and advanced economies choose not to incarcerate young children, for example in South Korea the age of legal responsibility is 14, while it is 15 in Finland, Estonia and The Czech Republic. In Belgium the age of responsibility is 16. In truth, Australia lags behind most of the developed world in choosing to continue to imprison young.
Notably the UN has been critical of Australia and its steadfast position in incarcerating children when nations such as China, Russia, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, and Cambodia have raised the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is essential if we are serious about addressing inequality.
The low age particularly affects Indigenous children, who comprise 87% of 10- and 11-year-olds under custodial and community supervision in Australia
Raising the age of criminal responsibility is an essential step if we are serious about addressing the over representation of Aboriginal peoples in incarceration
Locking-up kids who should be in primary school flies in the face of neuro-developmental evidence making it clear that children are not able to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions, and that some of the most vulnerable children have additional neurodevelopmental impairment such as FASD or ADHD.
In 2017-2018 youth detention involved a staggering total government spend of more than $509 million, money the Law Council firmly believes would be better spent on prevention, rehabilitation, diversion and justice reinvestment.
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