Letter to Hon. Gerry McCarthy MLA from Priscilla Collins Chief Executive Officer North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency NAAJA's response to the New Era in Corrections dated 23 February 2011
Tabled paper 1429
Tabled papers for 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT
Tabled By Gerald McCarthy
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory under Standing Order 240. Where copyright subsists with a third party it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.
NAAJA recommends that the New Era involve the development of a specific youth justice system. Aboriginal young people continue to be incarcerated at disproportionate and increasing rates. The 2009-2009 NT Correctional Services Annual Statistics found that 91% of juvenile receptions were Aboriginal young people. Incarceration is counter- therapeutic and exposes Aboriginal young people to institutionalisation and incarceration at a young age. We consider a targeted youth justice system to be essential in addressing disproportionate Aboriginal youth incarceration rates. The NT remains the only jurisdiction without a specialist Youth Community Corrections Service. Accordingly, young people continue to be processed as mini-adults through the criminal justice system. The outcome of this is that young people are denied access to a specialist youth court service which is geared towards addressing specific youth offending issues. NAAJA directs the Governments attention to the Youth Court model used in Victoria. In the Victorian example, the Youth Court is in a separate building to the Magistrates Court. Youth court magistrates are individually selected and trained to sit as a specialist magistrate. Community Corrections Youth Justice officers are available at the Court. The Youth Criminal Court and Youth Family Court (which deals with Care and Protection matters), sit in the same building, recognising the overlap between these two areas of law. Importantly, a Youth Children's Clinic is attached to the building which has on-site mental health, drug and alcohol and family support services. Diversion Recommendation 12: The Government should strengthen Diversion programs. Diversion from the criminal justice system is a crucial aspect of any strategy to reduce incarceration rates. Early intervention and diversionary schemes are an essential response to th6 over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. Adult diversion has been employed as an early intervention technique in other jurisdictions such as Victoria (Section 59 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009), and New South Wales, with its host of Court Diversion programs. The December 2010 Australian Institute of Criminology research paper, Diversion programs for Indigenous Women' highlights the extreme disadvantage faced by Aboriginal women in the context of accessing diversion programs. The paper suggests that more research is required to ensure the invisibility of Aboriginal women is not perpetuated. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recognised that contact with the criminal justice system often results in entrenchment. Accordingly, the Royal Commission recommended that Aboriginal people be diverted from the courts system and imprisonment wherever possible. This point is reiterated in the Strategy 2.2.1 of the 10
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