Silhouette of Indigenous children sitting on a fence

Amnesty calls on WA Government to focus on keeping kids from behind bars

The Western Australian Government today announced the Premier’s Priorities. One of the targets announced is to:

Reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody: By 2028-29, reduce the number of Aboriginal adults in prison by 23 percent from 2017-18 numbers.

And with regards to children:

Reduce youth reoffending: By 2022-23, have no more than 50 per cent of young offenders return to detention within two years of release.

In response, Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Manager said:

“Reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal adults in custody is an incredibly important goal to have. Amnesty International welcomes its inclusions in the Our Priorities vision.

“The target to ensure that no more than 50% of young offenders return to detention within two years of release is also important and welcomed, but it is disappointing that the government hasn’t set targets to keep them out of prison in the first place.

“The best way to reduce this shameful overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in WA’s justice system is to recognise that adults start as kids, and invest in programs that prevent offending. We need to keep children out of the quicksands of the justice system, because we know that once they are in, it’s incredibly hard to leave.

“If a child is locked up for the first time before the age of fourteen, they are three times more likely to reoffend as an adult. Therefore it makes sense to provide programs that prevent offending altogether, as well as programs designed to stop repeat offending.

“We are calling for an optimistic approach to juvenile justice, and a hopeful outlook for our children – the government must do all they can to keep kids from behind bars.

“The best thing that the Western Australian government can do to keep kids out of prison is to raise the age that they can be locked up from ten to fourteen, and to invest in Indigenous-led early intervention and prevention programs.