Leading human rights campaigner Debbie Kilroy has called on the international community to weigh in on Queensland’s backward policy response to “youth crime’ amid fears new plans will put more children in harm’s way.
Her comments follow measures announced by the State Government that would see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people detained in Queensland’s youth prisons.
Ms Kilroy said calls in parliament this week to double down on “youth crime” and Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement last month that $500 million was on the table to increase youth detention capacity and policing measures would ruin the lives of more children and more communities.
Ms Kilroy has also called on the Queensland Government to throw out plans to build another prison for children.
‘There is no evidence that building another cage for children is best practice,’ Ms Kilroy said. ‘The only real evidence we have is that detaining children does not work. It further traumatises already vulnerable children.’
‘The international community and experts globally are resoundingly clear that building more cages for children and sending more children to jail does not work, but creates a lifetime of reoffending and ongoing trauma.’
‘The Queensland Government says this is an evidence based approach to “youth crime” but where is this evidence? We would like to see it. Enough is enough.’
Ms Kilroy called on the government to follow in the footsteps of leading world practices that were seeing youth prisons close in favour of wholesale investment in community programs and communities themselves.
In Hawaii, Indigenous peoples and non-government organisations ‘are leading the way to ending incarceration’.
‘There are no girls in cages and the number of boys has reduced to 16 with the NGOs working on their release,” Ms Kilroy said.
‘Eventually the youth prison will close. We must do the same.”
Ms Kilroy, who heads up Sisters Inside, which advocates for the rights of imprisoned women, girls and youth, said pouring resources into prisons perpetuated the existing ‘racial gendered violence’.
‘In 2020 the National Agreement on Closing the Gap identified the mass incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and adults in the carceral system. What the State Government is doing right now directly contravenes targets set to address this issue – it will only increase the number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in detention,’ Ms Kilroy said.
‘This system is broken and we need to throw it out and start again.’
Data released in Parliament in September showed more than 80 percent of Queensland children placed in solitary confinement in the past year were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
According to the data Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children also accounted for 62 percent of Queensland’s youth prison population in the June 2021 to June 2022 period.
‘Imagine what communities would be able to do with an allocated $500m a year instead of wasting our tax dollars on cages and keeping children locked in the same cages for generations to come,’ Ms Kilroy said.
Sisters Inside Inc’s End Toxic Prisons – Block the Pipeline’ campaign demands a moratorium on building youth prisons and an immediate end to youth incarceration.
‘The government is called upon to invest efforts and funds into community-controlled solutions that work to end the criminalisation of children,’ Ms Kilroy said.
‘Local community care is successful in addressing the social issues that young people, particularly in regional and remote places, are subject to.’
Further Information: Debbie Kilroy 0419 762 474