The Department of Justice this week told a Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s youth justice system that children will continue to be locked up in the Barwon maximum security adult prison even after repairs to the Parkville Youth Justice Centre are completed.
Alina Leikin, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said it was a disturbing revelation and that removing children from Barwon should be an immediate priority for the Government.
“It would be extremely disappointing to think the Government was using kids as pawns in some sort of political game to win votes,” said Ms Leikin.
After losing a Supreme Court challenge and appeal in December last year, the Government side-stepped the Court’s ruling by renaming and reclassifying a section of Barwon prison as a youth facility. There are currently only around 15 boys detained at Barwon.
“The Government told the court last December that its sole justification for locking kids up in a maximum security adult prison was the lack of capacity due to the damage at Parkville. Yet now the Government has admitted that even when those 60 beds are fully repaired next month, it’s going to continue to keep kids at Barwon until August or September,” said Ms Leikin.
The ongoing legality of locking up children at Barwon is the subject of a further Supreme Court challenge by the Human Rights Law Centre – a ruling is due to be handed down soon.
“As a society we shouldn’t just give up on our kids. Yes, our clients have made some very bad decisions, but the Government should be doing all it can to show them while they are in custody that positive alternatives exist, that they can choose a better life that doesn't involve crime,” said Ms Leikin.
Ms Leikin said the Government doesn’t need to wait for another court ruling to remove children from Barwon.
“The Government doesn’t have to wait to do the right thing. It can and should immediately remove the 15 remaining children from the state’s highest-security adult jail,” said Ms Leikin.
For more information or comments, please contact:
Tom Clarke, HRLC Director of Communications and Campaigns on 0422 545 763.
(Cover image courtesy of Amnesty International. © Sacha Bryning)