WA: Promising moves to reduce youth incarceration rates

Amnesty International welcomes new moves by the Western Australian Government to address the growing number of young people being detained in the state, the majority being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

The State Government has announced a group of community members will form a Youth Justice Board (YJB) to help reduce youth incarceration rates.

The nine-member board will be Chaired by Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon and one of its main focuses will be on people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

We’re heartened to hear of this new move to address youth incarceration and specifically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth incarceration rates

Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager

“In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up just over 2 percent of the population but over 28 percent of Australia’s prison population.

“Over the last ten years, the imprisonment rate actually went up by 52 percent.

WA has the highest imprisonment rates

Western Australia currently has the highest Indigenous incarceration rates in Australia.

“In WA, an Indigenous person is 20 times more likely to be jailed than a non-Indigenous person – signalling a growing crisis.

“Recent figures from March 27 showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults made up 39.6 percent of the adult prisoner population, and a staggering 81.7 percent of the juvenile custodial population in WA.

“Amnesty International is looking forward to working with the new Youth Justice Board to focus and promote diversionary measures that reduce the number of people being put in detention or jail.

“We hope Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and social services organisations will be widely consulted throughout this process.

All states must act

“Amnesty International calls on other jurisdictions around Australia to also introduce similar initiatives to address youth detention,” Tammy Solonec added.

The human rights organisation is currently conducting research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth incarceration rates across Australia, comparing the measures being taken in all States and Territories to address these high rates.