Friday, 03 May 2013 03:51

Are Youth Boot Camps A Better Alternative To Juvenile Detention?

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The policy issue of juvenile boot camps has been particularly controversial in the media recently. The controversy surrounding this issue stems from both the Labour party’s view and the Liberal party’s view as to whether the camps will be long term effective, cost effective and reduce recidivism rates. Unfortunately, there is insufficient data to actually prove whether these camps are effective. As a result, it is important that we take into consideration both political parties viewpoints as well as the economic costs for these programs, so that we can draw our own conclusions as to whether these camps will benefit young people, families and the community.

The LNP believes the Youth Boot Camp Diversion Program would aim to assist young offenders at risk of finding themselves trapped in the revolving doors of the juvenile justice system. In accordance with this belief the Queensland Parliament passed the Youth Justice (Boot Camp Orders) & Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 and will spend $2 million dollars for a two year trial of the program. Boot camps are now operating in the Gold Coast and in Cairns, however recent incidents at the Kuranda camp resulted in a quick shut down and review of the entire boot camp initiative.

LNP Shadow Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie (2013) says, “For years Labor has attacked any suggestion that boot camps should be used for repeat offenders...Labors plan does nothing to redress the underlying causes of youth crime and why children are at risk in the first place”.

In saying  the incident in Kuranda were two young offenders escaped the facility and broke into a 59 year old woman’s house has caused the ALP to lash back at Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie. MP Curtis Pitt believes that the establishment of the camps has been a rushed process and that this incident is more evidence that this Government has bungled the program in which Mr Bleijie needs to take responsibility.

One of the biggest issues with this new policy is whether it will actually be effective. Many people believe that these camps will only further isolate and stigmatise young people and that military styles of intervention do not work, in fact they may increase the risk factors for young people. However, others believe that these camps will assist young people as they will provide them the opportunity to change their attitude and behaviour through physical activity, life skills training, mentoring and community volunteer work.

The questions here are should we be spending this much money on a program we have no idea will work? Or should we be investing the money in smaller more therapeutic programs. The amendments to The Youth Justice Act 1992, removed the option for referred Youth Justice Conferencing- a program which has proven to be successful.

We must question whether the State should continue to establish youth boot camps if they don’t achieve the purpose for which millions of dollars are allocated by our state legislatures.

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