Saturday, 20 September 2008

Judge rules youths be taken out of adult jail

IN A victory for prisoner rehabilitation, a Supreme Court judge has ordered three young offenders be removed from adult jails and returned to juvenile detention centres by Monday to complete their sentences.

Justice Peter Johnson yesterday found the three, aged 18, 19 and 20, had been transferred to jails due to overcrowding in detention centres without proper consideration of their circumstances, the effect on their rehabilitation or procedural fairness. He refused a request from the Department of Juvenile Justice to be given 10 days to organise the transfer.

The youths were transferred to adult jails in April despite court orders they serve their sentences in a juvenile facility until age 21 because of special circumstances that can include developmental delay, mental health issues, and rehabilitation prospects.

Justice Johnson said the transfer had "at the very least, a strong likelihood of actual detriment to their prospects of rehabilitation given the lesser facilities available in adult prisons".

He accepted that psychologists in the juvenile centres who wrote reports on the youths had been told not to include recommendations they stay in the facilities. He referred to evidence that a psychologist had been instructed by her superiors to change her report to delete all quotes from the sentencing judge and other recommendations about the client's unsuitability for transfer to jail.

The three offenders, known as ID, PF and DV, were among 26 young people on a transfer list drawn up by the Department of Juvenile Justice in January when the numbers in detention centres surged after the State Government toughened the Bail Act. The severe overcrowding meant young people had to sleep on a mattress on the floor, and were being held in "segregation" rooms usually used as punishment cells, and older detainees were moved to prison, contrary to court orders.

Justice Johnson accepted that overcrowding could be a consideration for transfer, but there was a statutory obligation to ensure the department had adequate resources.

He said consideration had not been given to the circumstances of the three, in particular, "the powerful body" of evidence that pointed to their progress in rehabilitation, and e and training, in the detention centre.

Jane Sanders, the principal solicitor at the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, said the decision was a victory for rehabilitation and for fairness. "The court reiterated the importance for juvenile offenders to be given an opportunity for rehabilitation even if they have committed very serious offences and have already turned 18," she said.

Dr Tim Keogh, a psychoanalyst and expert witness in the case, who has held positions as director of psychological services in Juvenile Justice, and head of Inmate Services and Programs in the Department of Corrective Services, said it appeared young offenders' rights had been compromised due to management putting pressure on psychologists to change their reports.


Laws will push teenagers into adult prisons
TWELVE young offenders who have brought a court challenge against their transfer from juvenile to adult jails have been dealt a blow after the State Government rushed laws into Parliament that may ensure they are moved.

Juvenile jails crisis: inmates turned away
THE state's juvenile justice system is so overcrowded that at least three institutions are refusing to accept any more inmates.

Juvenile detainees sharing single cells
SEVERE overcrowding in the state's juvenile detention centres is forcing young people to share cells designed for one person, to sleep on mattresses on the floor and be held in "segregation" rooms usually used as punishment cells.

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