In response to the announcement of the Queensland Youth Justice Action Strategy to reduce the rates of children on remand, Joel Clark, Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advocate said:
“More than 80% of children held in detention in Queensland are on remand, many of them being held in watch houses, by police without the necessary training and skills to deal with children.
“Watch houses are no place for kids. They are designed to temporarily hold adults. Children are being held for prolonged periods of time without access to education, family visits or appropriate health services. Today’s announcement does not go far enough to address these issues.
“Amnesty welcomes the prevention and early-intervention elements of the package, particularly a commitment to expand Queensland’s restorative justice program, and a ‘transition to school’ program. We first raised this with the Government in September last year – it is good that some progress has finally been made.
“However, under international law Queensland has an obligation to use prison as a last resort. More beds and transition centres are not the solution. Moving kids from watch houses to detention centres does nothing to address the underlying causal factors that see children trapped in the justice system.
More than 80 children are currently being held in watch houses across Queensland. Today’s announcement does little for these children. Something must be done immediately.
Queensland must also prioritise legislative reform, including the Bail Act and raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.