Trends in Juvenile Detention in Australia

Article excerpt

Foreword | An overview of key trends in juvenile detention in Australia since 1981 is provided in this paper, based on data contained in the Australian Institute of Criminology's Juveniles in Detention in Australia Monitoring Program database. In addition, two key trends in juvenile detention in Australia are discussed.

First, the substantial increase in the proportion of juvenile detainees that is remanded, rather than sentenced, is identified as a concerning trend. A number of potential drivers for the increased use of remand are outlined in this paper. It is argued that the apparent increase in the use of remand should be a key focus of future juvenile justice research.

Second, the over-representation of Indigenous juveniles continues to be an important issue to be addressed. Although rates of Indigenous over-representation have increased steadily, this appears to be due to decreases in rates of non-Indigenous juveniles in detention rather than increases in rates of Indigenous juveniles in detention. It is argued that rather than attempting to determine how juvenile justice policies have failed to keep Indigenous juveniles out of detention, consideration might be given to what has worked in reducing rates of non-Indigenous juveniles in detention.

Adam Tomison

Director

Although prior to the mid-nineteenth century, there was no separate category of 'juvenile offender' in Western legal systems (Cunneen & White 2007), it is widely acknowledged today that juveniles should be subject to a system of criminal justice that is separate from the adult system and that recognises their inexperience and immaturity. As such, juveniles are typically dealt with separately from adults and treated less harshly than their adult counterparts.

In all Australian jurisdictions, detention is considered a last resort for juvenile offenders. Juvenile justice legislation in each state and territory provides for the diversion of juveniles from the criminal justice system via measures such as police cautioning, restorative justice conferencing, specialty courts (such as youth drug and alcohol courts) and other diversionary programs.

This paper provides an overview of key trends in juvenile detention in Australia, based on data contained in the Australian Institute of Criminology's (AICs) Juveniles in Detention in Australia Monitoring Program database and then provides a discussion of two key trends in juvenile detention- the national increase in the proportion of juvenile detainees that is remanded (rather than sentenced) and the increase in the over- representation of Indigenous juveniles in detention.

Methodology

The AIC has monitored juveniles in detention in Australia since 1981 (see AIC 2000; Bareja & Charlton 2003; Cahill & Marshall 2002; Carcach & Muscat 1998; Charlton & McCaII 2004; Richards & Lyneham 201 0; Taylor 2006, 2007, 2009; Veld & Taylor 2005). The AIC reports annually on all juveniles in detention in Australia, including information on juveniles' age, sex, Indigenous status, legal status (remanded or sentenced) and jurisdiction.

Data for the monitoring program are provided by the relevant juvenile justice authority in each jurisdiction. A census count is undertaken in each juvenile correctional facility on the last day of each quarter of the year; that is, 31 March, 30 June, 30 September and 31 December. The population estimates used to calculate the rate of people aged 10 to 17 years in detention per 100,000 population aged 10 to 17 years, are taken from Population by Age and Sex (ABS 2009) for 30 June of each year. More detailed information about the methodology of the AICs Juveniles in Detention in Australia Monitoring Program, including its limitations, can be found in Richards and Lyneham (2010).

Trends in juvenile detention

Since 1981 , there has been an overall decline in both the number and rate of persons aged 10 to 1 7 years in juvenile detention in Australia. …