In the wake of two teenagers being shot by police in Kings Cross, The Sydney Morning Herald has been running a series of articles focusing on the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system.
The facts presented by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics within the articles are startling.
As a result of a ten year study, the Bureau report that domestic violence cases involving 10 – 17 year-olds have increased by 167 per cent, while other violent crime, break and enter and malicious damage to property all rising 21, 13 and 47 per cent respectively.
Approximately 5000 young people per year have their first contact with the juvenile justice system, but of particular concern is the rate of recidivism of those juveniles brought before the courts. Of the 4938 juveniles who came before NSW courts in 1999, over 2600 of them reoffended, on average four times before 2010. For Indigenous kids the rate of recidivism was 84 percent.
What is going wrong with our juvenile justice system? Why are kids released only to return a few months or years down the track?
The fact is: If we want to stop these kids re-offending, we have to stop them offending in the first place.
We must address poverty in earnest. We need to be creative in how we run our schools. We need to provide genuine learning and employment opportunities. Provide better funding for youth workers, outreach programs and schools. We need to support families.
The government must realize that society as a whole is responsible for our youth, and funding in this area should not be seen as a cost but an investment.