Government's shortsighted cost-cutting trumps rehabilitation of young offenders

Youth Justice Coalition Media Release 5 July 2012
The NSW Government's sudden decision to abolish the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court (YDAC) is shortsighted and in stark contrast to the Attorney General's publicly stated commitment to rehabilitation of young offenders.

The YDAC plays an important role in diverting young offenders with drug and alcohol problems into specialist treatment programs. Its closure is a cost cutting measure that may send more young people on a pathway to detention.

There has been no genuine evaluation of this program undertaken before its closure. Research shows, that diverting young offenders from detention and using community-based programs is the most effective way to reduce juvenile crime.

"In the absence of another diversionary program to replace the YDAC more young people are likely to face imprisonment, which we know leads to re-offending," says Emily Muir, Convenor of the Youth Justice Coalition.

The long-term cost not enabling young people to address underlying issues of substance abuse will only increase the long term costs to the Government.

The YDAC's express purpose throughout its 12 years of operation has been to rehabilitate by addressing the holistic and systemic health and welfare issues which have affected the young person’s ongoing substance misuse and associated offending.

The NSW juvenile justice sector is angered by this decision, which has been made without consultation.

"This decision comes at a time when greater investment is needed in prevention and early intervention programs for young people, diverting them from further involvement in the criminal justice system," says Dev Mukherjee, Acting Director of the Council of Social Service of NSW.

Eamon Waterford, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Youth Action & Policy Association, states that the only evaluation of the YDAC, in 2004, recommended its expansion. "If there has been further evaluation that recommends the scrapping of this program, we call on the Attorney General to release it publicly," he says.

"It would be concerning if axing of the Youth Drug Court means that even more vulnerable young people will be exposed to the juvenile justice system. The NSW Government should be putting more resources into measures that divert young people away from detention. Any savings made from closing the Youth Drug Court should be put into theses type of programs," says Karen Bevan, Director Research and Advocacy, UnitingCare Children Young People & Families.

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