Cost of keeping young people in prison nears $1 million per child per year


The Department of Communities and Justice have today revealed in NSW Budget Estimate hearings that the per day cost of keeping a person under 18 in prison is $2700, totalling an annual cost per child of $985 500 and with 212 young people presently in custody in NSW, the State is currently spending $208 million per year on young people in prison. The Department also disclosed that of the 212 children in custody, 129 are First Nations young people. 

“It is alarming how much the State is spending to keep children locked up,” Greens MP and spokesperson for justice Sue Higginson said. “In budget estimates last year, the Department said that the cost per child increases as the number of children in custody decreases, yet this year we have seen an increase on the previous number of children in custody as well as a cost per child increase. 

“Last year we discovered that the State was spending $1956 per child per day to keep children locked up, an annual total of $713 940 per child. Since then, the number of children in custody has increased slightly, but the cost per child has increased by almost $800 per day. 

“The millions of dollars spent on keeping children locked up is money that should be invested in the broad expansion of diversionary programs and wrap-around services that keep children out of prison. 

“It was also revealed today that of the 212 young people in prison, just 51 had received a custodial sentence and the rest are held on remand. The Department admitted that children are often denied bail because of a gap in services that would allow them to be released. The system is failing - prison shouldn’t be an alternative for community services, especially for our young people, support services for our most vulnerable young people should always be available and fit for purpose. 

“It appears that we have seen no improvement on the youth justice figures in the last 12 months, in fact the situation has worsened. The only improvement is that the number of children under 14 who are in prison right now is just four children - three of whom are First Nations children. The case could not be stronger to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 without exception.” Ms Higginson said. 

Ms Higginson also asked the Department, of the 212 young people in prison how many were the subject of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan of NSW Police, which just this month was abandoned after the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission described as unreasonable, unjust, oppressive and improperly discriminatory in its effect on children and young people and resulted in police acting unlawfully and constitutes agency maladministration and possibly serious misconduct. The Question was taken on notice. 

For media contact Sue Higginson: 0428 227 363