Children as young as ten can be prosecuted and imprisoned under current NSW laws, but a new Greens Bill before Parliament would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and prevent any child under 16 from being locked up. The bill is the first time the NSW Parliament will have the opportunity to vote to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and require alternatives to prison for children under 16.
The Greens Bill is part of a nationwide campaign to raise the age, with the ACT leading the way having committed to raise the age and to create the detailed policy changes needed to provide alternatives to jail for young people with complex needs.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge, who introduced the Bill into the NSW Parliament today, said:
“Children don’t belong in prisons. They belong at home, at school, playing with friends. They deserve a chance to learn from their mistakes and help to overcome disadvantage.
“At ages 10 and 11 children are still losing their baby teeth, they don’t have their pen licenses let alone drivers licenses. Some of these young people spend their first night away from their families in a prison cell.
“Prisons harm young people, and early contact with the criminal legal system increases chances of reoffending. The best scientific evidence also shows that children this age lack impulse control and don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
“There are so many alternatives to prison but they’re often only available to kids from well-connected rich families, often white. For them there are treatment programs available, psychiatric treatment when needed, additional warnings, community orders.
“Locking young children up isn’t just cruel, it doesn’t work. Children need our protection, help to learn and grow and support to break cycles of offending and disadvantage. Prisons don’t deliver any of these things,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Link to the Raise the Age Campaign