Transition from detention


20.128 Young people released from detention commonly face difficulties re-integrating into the community, particularly in continuing education or training or obtaining employment. They can also encounter problems with simple tasks in day-to-day life. One submission to the Inquiry pointed out

[s]ome young people who are locked up for several months find it difficult on release to walk into a shop and make a purchase.[304]

20.129 A number of submissions raised concern over the lack of assistance given to offenders after detention.[305] One submission noted

[t]he lack of ongoing support creates a huge chasm between the structure of the detention centre and the unstructured world outside.[306]

Young people, in a survey conducted as part of the Inquiry, said

[b]oys are still not told of all the support they can get on the outside.[307]

Should have more support for boys when they leave JJC [Juvenile Justice Centre].[308]

20.130 Submissions and evidence presented at public hearings emphasised the importance of community re-integration programs in rehabilitating young people in detention and preventing them from re-offending.[309] Support for young people during and after detention is important. However, support after release is particularly important for the detainee’s re-integration into the community.

Experience suggests that most programs within detention centres…will only affect their behaviour if the external environment supports them on release.[310]

The Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice in NSW noted recently that, in the face of shrinking federal and state budgets, social welfare departments and agencies are often forced to retract services from particular client groups. Young offenders are particularly vulnerable. They are seen as undesirable housing clients. They receive few services from the mainstream health system and their particular health problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, are often seen to be their own fault, a consequence of their lifestyle choices.[311]

Transitional programs

20.131 Submissions identified key elements for transitional programs. They include continued case planning up to release and opportunities for self-direction and community involvement through parole and release programs.[312]Australian jurisdictions incorporate these elements in their transitional programs to varying degrees.[313]

20.132 Submissions to the Inquiry were strongly supportive of properly funded transitional programs for young people in detention.[314]

Institutional environments can result in loss of initiative, communication skills, and independent living skill…Transitional programs must provide opportunities for self-direction and the taking of responsibility and set up community resources before release.[315]

20.133 The WA Ministry of Justice said in its submission that each detainee should have a tailored management plan which culminates in release planning. It sub-mitted that the transition planning process should involve parents, other significant adults, educational service providers and the young person in deciding on post-release arrangements. The appointment of a field officer to provide support after release (preferably the case worker during the detention period) was also seen as an essential element in the transition process.[316]

20.134 The Inquiry was told that a protocol is currently being drafted by the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care and the Department of Corrective Services in Queensland to continue case planning through release into the community supervision component of the detainee’s sentence.[317]

20.135 Research on transitional support schemes is scarce and inadequate. However, recently NYARS published the results of a study on transitional arrangements for young offenders.[318] The researchers interviewed juvenile justice policy officers, detention centre managers, program co-ordinators, staff of community-based services and young people. It noted that transitional arrangements and policies for the release of young people from custody vary markedly across jurisdictions. In particular, they found significant disparities in relation to temporary leave schemes. In some States use of these schemes is extremely limited or ‘practically non-existent’.[319]

20.136 Both the endorsed and the draft QOC Standards emphasise the importance of community re-integration after release.[320] The NYARS study noted that these standards were a worthy attempt to obtain national agreement in relation to certain areas.[321] However, the QOC Standards do not provide for maintaining community contact during detention or staged release through day and weekend leave and work release. A number of submissions emphasised the importance of this in rehabilitating young people in detention.[322] The Inquiry considers that pre-release community involvement and post-release support are essential for the success of young offender’s reintegration into the community. Particular emphasis should be placed during the detention period on providing children with day, weekend and work release to ease them gradually and successfully into the community.[323]

Recommendation 278 The NYARS study on transitional arrangements for young offenders should be analysed by each relevant federal, State and Territory department to ascertain the best features of existing pre-release and post-release support schemes for young detainees. Agreed strategies should be incorporated in the national standards for juvenile justice with a view to ensuring their expansion and widespread application.

Recommendation 279 The national standards for juvenile justice should include particular provisions for pre-release support schemes, such as day and weekend leave, work release and other forms of community involvement.

Employment placement and support

20.137 Obtaining employment after release is one of the most effective ways to assist young people to re-integrate into the community.[324] The Commonwealth Government recently announced a range of pilot projects for young offenders, called the ‘Improved Integration of Young Offenders into Employment, Education, Training and Community Life’, to promote re-integration into education, training and employment. Responsibility for operation of the projects will be shared between DEETYA, which will be responsible for those involving single case management, and ATSIC, which will co-ordinate those aspects of the pilots which are specifically directed at young Indigenous people. The Commonwealth has set aside $1m in 1997–98 for these initiatives. In addition, JPET assistance will be provided to young people who are or have been in the juvenile justice system.[325] The Inquiry applauds these initiatives and encourages their further development.

Recommendation 280 The pilot projects for young offenders established by the Commonwealth should be continued and developed into a national young offender employment and training scheme to enable intensive and supervised job training, placement and support for young offenders. Assistance should begin while the young person is in detention and continue after his or her release.

[304] Oz Child Legal Service IP Submission 195.

[305] eg Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) IP Submission 129; Oz Child Legal Service IP Submission 195; Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services DRP Submission 92.

[306] Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) IP Submission 129.

[307] Survey Response 191.

[308] Survey Response 335.

[309] eg Vic Government IP Submission 213; Australian Association of Social Workers IP Submission 207; R Funston Public Hearing Submission Sydney 26 April 1996.

[310] Australian Association of Social Workers IP Submission 207.

[311] K Buttrum ‘Juvenile justice: What works and what doesn’t’ Paper Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice Towards 2000 and Beyond Conference AIC Adelaide 26-27 June 1997, 7.

[312] SA Dept of Family and Community Services IP Submission 110; Oz Child Legal Service IP Submission 195. See also E Moore ‘Custodial programs and transition to the community: A review of policy and program reforms in Australia and New Zealand’ (1991) 3 Current Issues in Criminal Justice 193.

[313] eg The Integrated Approach: The Philosophy and Directions of Juvenile Detention Qld Corrective Services Commission Brisbane 1997, 30; Juvenile Justice Centres Operations Manual Vic Dept of Health and Community Services Melbourne 1994 Pt 3.13.

[314] Oz Child Legal Service IP Submission 195; Australian Association of Social Workers IP Submission 207; Law Society of NSW IP Submission 209.

[315] SA Dept of Family and Community Services IP Submission 110.

[316] WA Ministry of Justice IP Submission 184.

[317] Dept of Families, Youth and Community Care Minutes of Meeting Brisbane 31 July 1996.

[318] Keys Young Juvenile Justice Services and Transition Arrangements: A Report to the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies Hobart 1997.

[319] id vi–vii.

[320] QOC Standards 2.14–2.15, 5.19–5.21; Draft QOC Standards 2.12–2.14. The endorsed standards include provisions for referrals to community based agencies in relation to alcohol and drug and general health services. The draft standards provide that young people should be informed at the outset when and under what conditions the juvenile justice authority will cease intervention, that case management should continue up to the point of release or transfer, that links to community services should be maintained and developed and that post-release supervision, where possible be maintained in the community.

[321] Keys Young Juvenile Justice Services and Transition Arrangements: A Report to the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies Hobart 1997, vii.

[322] See Townsville Community Legal Service IP Submission 181; WA Ministry of Justice IP Submission 184.

[323] eg in SA conditional release is permitted after a young person has completed at least two-thirds of the period of detention, where the young person’s behaviour has been satisfactory and where there is no undue risk of the young person re-offending: Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 41. In Qld a child sentenced to a detention order must be released from detention after serving 70% of the detention period: Juvenile Justice Act 1992 (Qld) s 188. Other jurisdictions also provide that the Director of the relevant Dept can grant leave to young persons in detention for activities such as education, training, or employment: egChildren’s Service’s Act 1986 (ACT) s 68; Young Offenders Act 1993(SA) s 40.

[324] Vic Government IP Submission 218 found that re-offending rates were much lower for young people released from detention who were able to find and retain employment.

[325] DEETYA DRP Submission 60. For a more detailed discussion of JPET see para 9.51.