August 29, 1996
Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson today announced a major restructure of young offender management in Western Australia.
Mr Minson said the emphasis would be on offenders repaying the community for the damage their behaviour had caused and on reducing the incidence of re-offending.
The overhaul included replacing Camp Kurli Murri with mobile work camps and creating a high intensity treatment centre as a court-endorsed option for young offenders facing their first jail sentence.
"There will also be an intensive supervision centre for persistent young offenders who are likely to re-offend after they are released," the Minister said.
"In addition, the Ministry of Justice will undertake a comprehensive review of programs targeting offenders facing a custodial sentence for the first time.
"This approach is based on the recommendations to the State Government contained in Judge Kingsley Newman's report into Western Australian detention methods, which I received at the beginning of this month.
"Judge Newman is regarded as one of Australia's leading experts in this field and many of the proposals in his report are worthwhile."
In his report Judge Newman congratulated the WA Government on its `serious attempt' to reduce juvenile crime by establishing a work camp but said the model needed to be re-examined.
"It should be remembered Camp Kurli Murri was a pilot program and as such was subject to review and was just one part of the State Government's overall strategy to reduce juvenile offending," Mr Minson said.
"The early results from the camp were positive, with a good reception to it from the town of Laverton and nearby mining companies who employed a number of the offenders after they had completed the program.
"However, further studies have indicated a change in the approach to offender management is needed in the area of young offenders and Judge Newman's recommendations regarding the camp are among those the Government is now implementing."
Mr Minson said the report recommended the camp be closed because its guidelines were too narrow to maximise its use, it was too isolated for family and professional support and, in its present form, there was too little emphasis on restitution to the community.
"The challenge is to now implement an integrated system which works better," he said.
"This will be a four-way approach with an emphasis on giving something back to society through community work and reducing re-offending.
"The Government is not backing away from the idea of work camps but it recognises that their role in the system needs to be changed to render them effective."
Mr Minson said mobile work camps would take groups of either adult or juvenile prisoners and put them to work on a series of projects ranging from community work through to longer term projects such as the Bibbulmun Track.
The Newman Report also stressed that governments needed to make a clear distinction between young offenders on the verge of being jailed for the first time and those who were persistent repeat offenders.
The intensive supervision centre would specifically target repeat offenders aged between 16 and 21.
The centre would continue programs started in jail, including community work, and help establish links to the community through TAFE, employment and the offender's family.
"It is essential that the problem of young offenders in our community be kept in context," Mr Minson said.
"Over the last three years the number of charges heard in the Children's Court has dropped by 22 per cent and the number of juveniles being sentenced to jail has fallen by 30 per cent.
"At any one time we have about 70 juveniles in detention.
"The reality is that most of the crime is carried out by a few hard-core recidivists. The majority of those who offend cease after their first contact with police or the law.
"It is the hard-core few, as well as those who are in danger of joining their ranks, that this integrated strategy targets."
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211 or 015 083 526