Youth Justice yesterday revealed in Budget Estimates hearings that the cost of holding youth in detention in NSW has risen to $1956 per child per day, totalling $713 940 per child per year. Across the six youth detention centres in NSW, 205 young people are currently in detention and of this youth population just nine are under 14 years of age. The youngest person in detention in NSW is 11 years and nine months.
While the overall number of youth in detention has declined over the last five years, this year has seen a jump in First Nations youth incarceration from 36% to 51%. Youth Justice attributed this uptick to an increase in bail refusals. The department was unable to provide the number of First Nations children under 14 who are currently in detention and will provide this information on notice.
Greens spokesperson for First Nations Justice Sue Higginson said, “We need to take urgent action to get the small but significant number of children under 14 out of prison.
“This huge expense to taxpayers to keep these young people locked up could be much better spent on developing and expanding diversionary and wrap-around programs that prevent children from coming in contact with the justice system in the first place.
“The department’s admission today that there is a child of just 11 years of age behind bars is very sobering. It’s unthinkable that the NSW Government finds it acceptable to hold a child in year six criminally responsible in the same way as an adult.
“Across the board we see young people who come in contact with the justice system due to lack of a supportive and nurturing home environment and once they are sentenced to detention, their chances of returning to prison again are exponentially higher.
“We’re talking about nine children - we urgently need to help them get out and stay out of prison and we need to raise the age of criminal responsibility so that children under 14 years of age in prison is a thing of the past .” Ms. Higginson said.