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From Detention to Deterrence: Juvenile Justice in the Top End




Juvenile justice policies in the Northern Territory of Australia have been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny. The prevailing approach, which emphasises bail and home detention, coupled with centralised systemic rehabilitation practices and mandated restorative justice, has been criticised for its ineffectiveness in reducing recidivism, rewarding bad behaviour, and the murders that have occurred by bailed offenders. This critique examines these policies through the lens of security principles, arguing for more transparent courts and traditional isolation practices with carceral timeframes placed on a sliding scale.


The current juvenile justice system in the Northern Territory prioritises keeping young offenders out of detention facilities. While this approach may be well-intentioned, aiming to integrate youths back into society, it overlooks the deeper issues at play. The emphasis on bail and home detention inadvertently leads to higher recidivism rates and diminished accountability.


Granting bail and home detention to juvenile offenders is based on the belief that remaining in a familiar environment will facilitate rehabilitation. Home detention policies can be problematic due to lack of supervision, peer influence, and resource constraints. Young offenders often come from unstable homes with minimal supervision, increasing their likelihood of reoffending. Staying in the same environment exposes them to negative influences, perpetuating the crime cycle. Additionally, the effectiveness of home detention relies heavily on resources like electronic monitoring and social services, which are both expensive and lacking in the Northern Territory.


Centralised rehabilitation programs, while theoretically sound, fail in practice due to their one-size-fits-all approach. Rehabilitation programs fail to consider the unique needs and circumstances of each offender, resulting in terrible outcomes. This is due to a lack of individualisation and bureaucratic inefficiencies, which hinder timely and effective intervention in centralised systems.


Through reconciliation between offenders and victims, restorative justice seeks to repair the harm that criminal behaviour has caused. Restorative justice programs, which involve mandatory participation, potentially increase recidivism rates due to offenders feeling coerced into participating. Additionally, the emphasis on reconciliation over punishment dilutes the deterrent effect of the justice system, leading to more criminal behaviour.


In light of these flaws, a reevaluation of juvenile justice policies is necessary. More transparent courts and the reintroduction of traditional isolation practices with a sliding scale of timeframes offer a compelling alternative. Starting from a first offence of 7 days in carceral confinement and increasing some 7 days extra on top of the last offence for every criminal infraction following. This system aims to deter repeat offenders and provide a more effective form of rehabilitation.


Transparency in the judicial process is crucial for maintaining public trust and ensuring accountability. Transparent courts promote public accountability, deterrence, and fairness by allowing the public to scrutinise the judicial process. They ensure justice is served fairly and consistently, demonstrating the consequences of criminal behaviour. Additionally, transparent courts reduce the likelihood of bias and corruption, ensuring all parties involved are treated fairly.


In the Northern Territory, due to detrimental advice from the commission during the royal commission on juvenile crime, the juvenile offenders court became closed, leading to increases in crime rates and diminished trust in the judicial system and judicial representatives.


Isolation, or detention, has long been a cornerstone of the justice system. Short-term detention has proven effective when applied judiciously with reduced timeframes. It provides immediate consequences for criminal behaviour, promoting the idea that actions have consequences. It may also be used for intensive, individualised rehabilitation programs, addressing the specific needs of each offender. Additionally, it offers a break from negative influences, providing youth with a fresh start.


The Don Dale Youth Detention Centre has been at the centre of controversy due to reports of mistreatment and abuse. However, these issues stem not from the concept of detention itself but from poor management and a lack of oversight. Reforming such institutions with a focus on transparency and accountability will transform them into effective tools for rehabilitation and deterrence. The reported abuse between inmates has reduced, but due to a lack of transparency and reporting, the cycle of violence continues to perpetuate.


To create a more effective juvenile justice system, policymakers must adopt a balanced approach that incorporates both deterrence and rehabilitation. Several strategies include enhancing court transparency, reforming detention practices to be less inviting, tailoring rehabilitation programs, strengthening community involvement, and investing in preventive measures. These include implementing public access to hearings and detailed case reports, introducing short-term detention programs, developing individualised rehabilitation programs, strengthening community involvement in remote and Indigenous areas, and allocating resources to early intervention programs, family support services, and educational initiatives to address the root causes of juvenile crime. These measures aim to ensure the safety and well-being of the community.


While current policies emphasising bail, home detention, centralised rehabilitation, and mandated restorative justice may have their merits in a few instances, they also have significant shortcomings. A shift towards more transparent courts and the judicious use of traditional isolation practices with flexible or rising timeframes offers a viable path forward.


By balancing deterrence with rehabilitation and ensuring transparency and accountability in the judicial process, we can create a juvenile justice system that effectively addresses juvenile crime while promoting the well-being of young offenders and the broader community. This approach requires the collaboration of policymakers, and community leaders to build a system that is both fair and effective. The judiciary is financially motivated by the failures of such systems to advocate for change. The Judiciary and actoivist judges in particular require removal or re-education, many of them in my opinion should be held accountable for the murders carried out by juvenile offenders, placed on bail by inept, incompetent or corrupt judicial representatives.


 From the author.


 The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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