6 December, 2022
Sisters Inside is calling for a moratorium on the development of all youth detention facilities nationwide and a national debate on the future of existing centres.
As part of its End Toxic Prisons – Blow up the Pipeline campaign, Sisters Inside is expanding the scope of its demands for an end to youth prisons to include not just the Queensland Government’s proposal to built a new youth prison but also the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to creating ‘therapeutic custodial centres’.
The Tasmanian Government announced earlier this year it would close the Ashley Youth Detention Centre by 2024 replacing it, the Government said, with a system guided by public health approaches that strengthened support for children and their families.
‘The development of institutions to replace a previous institution described by young people as a ‘kindergarten for the adult prison’ is a transitional measure that continues to fail in providing real care for incarcerated children,’ Sisters Inside CEO Debbie Kilroy said.
‘We need to reimagine the future for children who become part of the current system and the only way we can do that is to abolish prisons. No child should be behind bars ever.’
Ms Kilroy said Australian governments could draw on existing programs and policies being used internationally to develop alternative support for young people centred on opportunity and dignity.
‘I have lived experience. I wasn’t criminalised for committing a criminal act, I was criminalised for truancy. I knew as a kid the criminal punishment system didn’t do anything to help me, it was just a system to contain and cage me for a while,’ Ms Kilroy said.
‘Government can re-brand the cages as therapeutic environments but until we abolish the framework currently in place, we will only get the same outcomes; traumatised children who ultimately end up in our adult prisons.’
Ms Kilroy urged government to introduce inclusive support models like those being used internationally.
‘We need to take a power with approach, not power over. We need to reverse the power relationships that exist in the current system and place young people in the driver’s seat. We need to work alongside young people, many of whom have previously experienced little power in their lives.’
Ms Kilroy said Tasmanian Government’s Youth Justice Blueprint 2022-2023 highlighted a 10-year plan of an increasingly incarcerated society.
‘The reform only considers institutional violence to a minor extent, further justifying state surveillance of vulnerable children and will continue to give reason to incarcerate and isolate children from their families, community and support,’ she said.
‘End Toxic Prisons strongly argues that taxpayers money should not be used to reform Youth Justice but to reimagine and resource community to combat carceral violence to build a safer community.’