First Peoples Incarceration in Queensland
ANTaR made a submission to the Senate Enquiry into Raising the Age of Responsibility-Amendment Bill 2021 (Qld)
ANTaR Qld advocates strongly to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Queensland. Currently the age is 10, under the The Criminal Code Act (1899). That means that a child as young as 10 can be placed in prison, under laws formulated in the nineteenth century. The minimum age of criminal responsibility regarded as acceptable by the United Nations (UN Human Rights Council) is 14.
Currently, First Nations children make up 62% percent of youth in detention and 84% of those placed in solitary confinement according to statistics tabled in parliament in September 2022 (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/sep/28/first-nations-children-account-for-84-of-queensland-youth-detainees-put-in-solitary-confinement?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other). Many children are placed in solitary confinement, a deeply destructive practice psychologically, because they are self-harming. Once in contact with the prison system, these children overwhelmingly continue in and out of prison throughout their adult lives. The alternative to prisons is much greater support for local community responses to troubled young people and the development of local community care to address the underlying social issues that youth experience.
Material provided on the Resources & Links page, including the Cooee submission to the 2022 Parliamentary Committee Hearings on The Criminal Law (Raising the Age of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2021, provides further information on this fundamentally important issue.
ANTaR Queensland also provides modest support to and advocacy for Murri prisoners seeking to attend family funerals.
SOME FURTHER DATA
Recent adult offender (over 18) data from the Department of Corrective Services, Youth Justice and the Attorney-General gives a challenging picture.
Since 2013 total Queensland prisoner numbers overall rose by 68%. First Peoples imprisoned in the same period rose by 96%.
Currently, First Peoples are 35% of all prisoners – a heavy over-representation, recalling that First Peoples in Queensland overall are 4.6% of the general population. Note also that 60% of prisoners are non-violent offenders whose average term of sentence is 3.9 months.
This group is not eligible for rehabilitation activity. Corrective services is struggling with prison officer staffing shortages.
This means more prison lock downs. Remember – First Peoples in public places are scrutinised more closely by police.
75% of First Nations prisoners return to prison within 2 years. Prison is clearly not providing rehabilitation, but is serving as path to more prison.
First Peoples juvenile offenders (aged 10-18) are 72% of all youth detention centre populations. Many of them are on remand – that is, they have been charged with but not convicted of any offence.
In recent years, 90% of children released from youth detention re-offended within 12 months. Of these, 90% go on to adult prisons. Child detention is working as a path to adult criminal behaviour.
The current government plans to build 2 more youth detention centres. This government recently legislated to make breach of bail a new, extra criminal offence.
Over the past 2 months, 300 juveniles have been charged with this new offence. Overflow numbers of such unsentenced young people have meant longer stays in police watch houses in several locations. The QPS is reluctant to discuss this. Very few young offenders receive independent professional assessment for primary health, mental health, FASD and disabilities prior to facing Children’s Court. All up, we’re in bad shape.
See the Resources & Links page for some excellent publications and video.