4 facts you didn’t know about Indigenous youth incarceration

1. On an average night, 34 in every 10,000 Indigenous young people are in prison, compared to just 3 per 10,000 non-Indigenous young people.

The over-representation of Indigenous children in prison is at a crisis point and this rate is continually rising. The government really needs to address alternative solutions to ensure this rate is being reduced. Justice reinvestment and providing early intervention strategies is an effective solution. Giving the power to Indigenous communities to control programs allows the community to become stronger and safer.

2. 97% of youth detainees in the Northern Territory detention centre are of an Indigenous background.

The Northern Territory has shown the greatest over-representation of Indigenous children in detention. With almost all detainees being of an Indigenous background, this rate shows that incarceration is often used as a form of punishment and solution. There have also been many reports of abuse and assault from the guards. Videos and photos have surfaced where Indigenous children were gassed, blindfolded and beaten up by guards in the Don Dale detention center in the Northern Territory.

3. 54% of Indigenous children in detention were unsentenced.  

Many Indigenous children aren’t provided the needed legal representation or don’t understand legal processes meaning they are sent to juvenile detention without a sentence. As many Indigenous children also live in poverty, incarceration can sometimes be used as a form of accommodation. Furthermore, Indigenous children are sent to jail for minor offences such as driving without a license or offensive behaviour in public.

4. 38% of children in detention require psychiatric support compared to 6% in the general community

Many Indigenous children are in need of psychiatric support after a few months of being in detention. There have been studies that show that their mental and emotional health start to deteriorate after 6 months of being detained. During their prison sentence, they are often not given the necessary treatment or services to battle mental health issues.

 

-D.D

 

Resources:

https://www.theguardian.com/maurice-blackburn-fair-is-for-all/ng-interactive/2016/aug/29/the-incarceration-of-children-in-australia?CMP=share_btn_tw

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/07/26/facts-about-indigenous-youth-detention-australia

The Need for Early Intervention Strategies

 

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Providing early intervention strategies is a solution that is smarter and safer for all Indigenous communities.  The government is currently relying on incarcerating Indigenous children as a form of punishment and solution which only causes recidivism and weaker communities. This has been shown in the statistics over the past few years. Indigenous children make up only 2.2% of the population and 59% of children in juvenile detention are of an Indigenous background. Indigenous children also have a re-offending rate of 70%. This staggering rate shows that locking up children is ineffective and it is also very costly. The cost to send children to juvenile detention adds up to almost $236 million a year and the money spent on this has a poor outcome as it does not address how and why children end up in detention centres.

Investing the money and resources into early intervention strategies and justice reinvestment can be much more useful as it tackles the root cause of the problem. As mentioned in our previous blogs we addressed the factors that have led to a high incarceration rate. One of the main issues that have caused this crisis was due to social and economic disadvantages. By providing early intervention strategies such as youth programs this issue can be attended to, thus decreasing the crime and prison rate. Youth programs that aim to educate Indigenous children and provide social skills can be highly beneficial. By offering an education and social skills, Indigenous children will be able to develop the necessary skills to get a job and this will reduce poverty-related crimes such as theft, breaking and entering and substance abuse.

Investing into communities is, therefore, the most ideal solution to tackling this issue. Local Indigenous communities know how to provide the most appropriate programs for their own community and turning to youth programs will stop children from being separated from their families and culture.

-D.D

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A new Stolen Generation

Back in 2008, Kevin Rudd apologised for the stolen generations where children were forcefully removed from their families and placed in foster care or institutions during the early 1900s. The policy started by the belief that Aboriginal children would die out as the Aboriginal population was declining. They believed that they were superior and that assimilation of children into white-society was the best solution. The stolen generations have proven to have detrimental social and emotional effects to the Aboriginal community. Studies have shown that children that were removed were abused and were more likely to come into contact with the law, have a high usage of substances such as drugs or alcohol and were less likely to complete an education.

Even though the government has apologised for the issue and attempted reconciliation, the rate of separation of Aboriginal children in today’s society is increasing rapidly. Many Aboriginal children are placed in out-of-home care or are incarcerated. This shows that there’s a real problem that needs to be addressed before another stolen generation occurs. Aboriginal children are still removed at high rates due to neglect. The government has attempted to make recommendations to address this issue however they haven’t considered to give responsibilities to local Indigenous communities. New recommendations are necessary that allow Indigenous communities to help support these families and children.

Furthermore, funding towards Indigenous communities can help provide youth programs that can help provide ways for Indigenous children to stay in their community and also reduce the high incarceration rates of Indigenous children. Allowing Indigenous leaders and communities to take control of their community is beneficial in all aspects.

-D.D

Resources:

https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/a-guide-to-australias-stolen-generations

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/oct/08/australia-must-act-now-to-prevent-a-new-stolen-generation-tragedy?CMP=share_btn_fb

4 ways that you can help break the cycle!

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 8.54.02 pm.pngReducing the over-representation of Indigenous children in juvenile detention can be hard as funding and the law is mostly in the hands of the government. As mentioned in our previous blogs there is a need for youth programs that aim to educate children and tackle social and economic issues that are the root cause of the problem. Funding programs in Indigenous communities can be difficult as there are no stable resources that the community can rely on. This is why it’s so important to bring awareness on this issue to everyone in Australia so that they can understand it, help spread the news and change the way the government approaches the issue.

Here are 4 ways you can help:

  1. Educate yourself on the issueimages.png
    Understand the factors and effects of incarceration on Indigenous children. Many Indigenous children go to juvenile detention due to social and economic disadvantages, substance abuse, mental health issues and discrimination from the criminal justice system. The effects of incarceration can also be harmful as they’re separated from their family and community and sometimes face abuse and assault from guards in the prison. When children are released from detention they often find it hard to adjust back to society, which leads to recidivism.
  2. Sign petitionspetition_icon_large_blue.png
    Signing petitions is a great way to help deliver a message to the government or prime minister and call for help. Here are two petitions that you can sign right now!https://act.oxfam.org/australia/ctg-dondale
    https://www.change.org/p/malcolm-turnbull-royal-commission-into-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-suicides
  3. Spread the news!images (1).png
    You can help by sharing what you know to your family and friends or through your social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s important for everyone to understand the crisis and the more people know about the issue, the more the government is willing to do something about it.
  4. Get involved or donate
    There download.pngare various ways you can help break the cycle. If you’re a busy person but would like to fight for justice you can help by donating to organisations such as Justice Reinvestment NSW or Amnesty International. If you have free time and would like to actively participate you can check this link out:
    http://www.justreinvest.org.au/get-involved/

 

-D.D

mental-health-week

Mental Health Week

World Mental Health Day was on the 10th of October and coincided with Mental Health Week that ran from the 9th until the 15th of October. The aim of these events is to promote social and emotional wellbeing, remove the stigma around the issue and encourage people to look after their health. As one in four adults will experience some sort of mental health problem in their life it is important to ensure that individuals, families and communities know how to cope with this and be able to seek help when it is needed. Mental health issues can have a major effect on people’s lives and many people often feel isolated or discriminated against making it hard for them to recover.

Many Indigenous children are subject to mental health issues that are linked to the high incarceration rates. Research has shown that 24% of West Australian Aboriginal children between the ages of 4 and 17 years have shown signs of severe emotional or behaviour difficulties. In addition to this, they also have high rates of disabilities and diseases such as diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Mental health can be affected by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. One of the key factors that contribute to the high rate of Indigenous children with mental health issues is the social and economic disadvantages. It has been shown that individuals who live in poverty are more likely to develop mental health issues. As they face a high rate of unemployment many children also do not receive an education and they can feel disconnected from society. Furthermore, due to the discrimination they face they are more likely to develop depression and psychological distress and turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs as a form of escape.

There are significant barriers that Indigenous children face in relation to mental health that needs to addressed. Many Indigenous children don’t have access to the necessary mental health services in their communities or they feel too afraid to speak about their mental health. This is why it’s so important to remove the stigma around mental health and raise awareness on this issue to allow individuals to talk about it more easily.

If you need help and want to talk to a counsellor, you can call Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 that is available 24 hours for 7 days a week. You can also chat to someone online on their website: https://kidshelpline.com.au/

-D.D

Resources:

http://wfmh.com/world-mental-health-day/

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/promoting-mental-health-wellbeing-indigenous-children.pdf

Factors: continued

Our previous post explored some of the factors that have led to high incarceration rates of Indigenous youth.  If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out! This post will focus on the discrimination that Indigenous youth face that contributes to the over-representation of children in prison.

The criminal justice system also plays a role in this issue. Many Indigenous children have been subject to discrimination and bias from the police and lack legal representation or community-based alternatives to prison. Police are known to select Indigenous youth and give them heavier penalties compared to non-Indigenous people. There have been stories that Police tend to observe Indigenous communities and wait for children to commit crimes. They are given harsher sentencing and, police and judges turn to imprisoning Indigenous youth as a form of punishment and solution. Due to a change in sentencing laws, bail and parole is often hard to get. There are also limited alternative sentencing options or rehabilitative programs.

Furthermore, there is a lack of legal representation for Indigenous youth meaning they are not given the adequate representation needed. With a lack of representation many don’t understand court proceedings or don’t make it to court due to circumstances that are out of their control. Another factor that leads to high incarceration rates is that they don’t pay fines or drive unlicensed. As many Indigenous youths live in poverty they may be unable to pay for fines and aren’t able to get a license as they cannot afford driving lessons. The language used in driving tests can also be hard for them to understand meaning that children sometimes choose to drive cars unlicensed instead. Additionally, Indigenous children are charged with disorderly conduct such as swearing at the police when they’re affected by alcohol, drugs or they have a mental illness or are homeless. With all these offences police treat Indigenous people more harshly.

It is important for the criminal justice system to address this issue by changing or implementing legislations that protect Indigenous people and training police officers to be aware of Indigenous culture and disadvantages. Underlying factors such as social and economic disadvantages, mental health and substance abuse must also be addressed by the government in order to change the cycle of incarceration. The idea of Justice Reinvestment that concentrates on funding communities instead of prisons can be an effective solution. By providing programs and services that battle the root cause of crimes, the re-offending rates can be reduced. Organisations such as Justice Reinvestment NSW is a great initiative to change this.

Check out Just Reinvest NSW here: http://www.justreinvest.org.au/

-D.D

 

Resources:

https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates

http://www.balancedjustice.org/indigenous-overrepresentation-in-prisons.html

Factors: a deeper look into why Indigenous youth are over-represented in prison

Our previous posts have explored issues regarding the over-representation of Indigenous youth in detention however we haven’t looked at the factors contributing to this in depth yet. There are many factors that have led to a high incarceration rate of Indigenous children including social and economic disadvantages, substance abuse, mental health and discrimination from the criminal justice system. This post will focus on social and economic disadvantages, substance abuse and mental health. Our next post will look into the discrimination that Indigenous youth face from the criminal justice system, so keep an eye out for that!

Indigenous youth who go to prison or have been to prison normally suffer from social and economic disadvantages. Many children live with family members who are unemployed and therefore have a low income. With a low income, there are greater rates of children dropping out of school and not receiving a proper education that can impact on their futures severely. Indigenous youth then also face unemployment when they grow up and some lack skills such as speaking and understanding English.  Due to poverty some children also lack accommodation and going to prison is the only option left for them. The stolen generations have also impacted on Indigenous adults and children greatly as many feel traumatised or disconnected from the land which increases the likelihood of criminal behaviour.

Statistics have shown that the overall health and substance use of Indigenous children are also linked to high imprisonment rates. With a lower life expectancy and effects from dispossession, many Indigenous people including children turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of escape. Some children are influenced by their parents who use substances and are often neglected or abused. This can lead to criminal behaviour and incarceration. Furthermore, many Indigenous youths face mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or substance misuse disorders. With the lack of services available to Indigenous people, they aren’t able to access any treatments. This is why the government really needs to fund for early intervention strategies such as youth programs and services in order to help Indigenous youth.

Our next blog post will focus on the discrimination that Indigenous youth face.

-D.D

 

Resources:

https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates

http://www.balancedjustice.org/indigenous-overrepresentation-in-prisons.html

The Northern Territory Youth Detention Treatment

The shocking footages of the treatment of Aboriginal children in the juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory have been going viral across Australia for a long time. One of the footages from the Don Dale detention centre shows a 17-year-old boy strapped to a restraining chair and another footage shows the boy being stripped and assaulted. In the same youth detention, six boys were also exposed to teargas and held in isolation back in August 2014. The children who were tear gassed now suffer from flashbacks and nightmares from the incident. Many children were also deprived of basic necessities.

This treatment from the guards in the Northern Territory is appalling and inexcusable and calls for the investigation and monitoring of detention centres. The videos clearly show that the Don Dale detention centre has broken international conventions including the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.

Since the release of the video this year, Prime Minister Turnbull set up a royal commission to address the issue. The Northern Territory government also commissioned an independent report into the incident in January 2015 and commented that the system had many problems and that it needed to be improved. Even though there have been minor changes, there are still ongoing issues with the youth detention and many recommendations have not been implemented.

To address the issue a change in the criminal justice system and inquiries into all detention centres across Australia are really needed. The government also needs to change its legislations to ensure there is no inequality or mistreatment from police, judges or prison guards. In order to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in detention centres, children should be given the right for bail. As our campaign focuses on justice reinvestment, strengthening Indigenous communities by providing educational programs can be beneficial. Governments in Australia have imprisoned children as a form of punishment and they have removed Indigenous children from their family which weakens the community. The approach to Indigenous youth incarceration can be changed if the government and community are willing to work together.

 

For footage and more information on the issue

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-25/child-hooded-to-mechanical-restraint-chair-in-nt-detention/7659008
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm

-D.D

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The Oxfam Petition: Help fight the crisis!

Looking for a way to help Indigenous youth in crisis? You can help by signing the Oxfam petition in the link below!

https://act.oxfam.org/australia/ctg-dondale

 

The Oxfam petition aims to call on Prime Minister Turnbull to fix the broken criminal justice system, fund and give adequate resources to Indigenous organisations and to engage with Indigenous leaders in order to end the crisis.

As mentioned in our previous blogs, the Incarceration rates of Indigenous children are continuously rising with no just solution. Currently, 96% of youth in the detention centre in the Northern Territory are Indigenous children. Many of these children in detention are also subject to abuse and horrid treatment from the guards. The mistreatment of these children is evident in numerous videos from the detention centre in the Northern Territory where children were stripped, blindfolded and assaulted. More information on this incident will also be reported in our upcoming blog posts.

The whole crisis has been escalating for years, however, the government has chosen to ignore the situation leading to a bigger crisis. Something needs to be done about the unjust treatment of the Indigenous community within the criminal justice system and funding/resources for Indigenous organisations are greatly needed. For the crisis to be addressed, the government and prime minister need to take a different approach and be willing to work with Indigenous leaders and organisations before it’s too late. If you want to end this crisis help by signing the petition!

-D.D

The Backing Bourke Project: Why justice reinvestment is such a great approach

The ABC Four Corners report on Monday exposed the outback town of Bourke to Australia and the high number of Indigenous children who have been incarcerated. As so many indigenous people end up in prison in Bourke, the community has decided that enough is enough and started a project based on Justice Reinvestment to prevent crimes from occurring. The town is aiming to save the young people in the community from ending up in jail for crimes such as domestic violence, assault, theft, and property crime.

So what is Justice Reinvestment? Justice Reinvestment focuses on spending more on building a community rather than sourcing the money to prisons. By building programs and services for Indigenous children, they have better opportunities to develop skills. Justice Reinvestment is a great way to move forward and overall it provides a safer and stronger community. Previous adaptations of justice reinvestment have proven to be effective and lessen the imprisonment rates. The reason why justice reinvestment is so effective is because it addresses the root of the problem, allowing children to be diverted away from criminal behaviour. Most of the children in the Bourke community commit crimes that are related to social and economic disadvantages such as poverty. By providing programs and resources that tackle these issues, social and economic related crimes can be reduced. Justice reinvestment is more cost-efficient and consulting the community on the right programs builds trust.

A few challenges with justice reinvestment is that it requires the government to take a different approach and it needs community support to be able to be effective. Community engagement and collaboration is important to ensure that the programs implemented are right for the children and community. Furthermore, government funding and input is necessary for local communities to establish programs and services.

The Backing Bourke project is such a great initiative and it is a great solution to reduce the high incarceration rates of Indigenous children in Bourke. Providing more programs and services in communities across Australia can benefit Indigenous communities with a high incarceration rate greatly and help children have a better future.

To get involved or find more information on Justice Reinvestment NSW: http://www.justreinvest.org.au/what-is-justice-reinvestment/

If you missed out on the Four Corners report on the Backing Bourke Project, you can watch it here: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/09/19/4539321.htm

-D.D