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Fresh Start Should Mean Starting Early, Says Children's Commissioner

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Fresh Start Should Mean Starting Early, Says Children's Commissioner

Changes to the Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment legislation being introduced by the Government this week, has some good ideas, but lacks on fundamentals, Children's Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro said today.

"Targeting persistent child and young offenders is a good idea, and I welcome some of the ideas such as extended Supervision with Residence orders and Supervision with Activity orders.

The problem has been in part, the absence of real investment in Supervision with Activity or Supported Bail schemes, and in making sure that what we do with children and young people who are sent to residences is the best we can do to meet their needs and turn their lives around", Dr Kiro said.

"Rather than sending 12 and 13 year olds to the Youth Court, we should be focused on intervening with them earlier to stop their repeat offending behaviour. "In the past 10 years New Zealand has increased its prison population by 70 percent.

Tougher, longer sentences have not deterred criminals and all the evidence suggests initiatives that are punitive, employ shock-tactics, or use corrective training as the basis for reforming young offenders are largely ineffective.

"The most effective ways of reforming child and youth offenders focus on addressing the issues in their lives rather than just dishing out punishment. Reform comes from teaching them new skills for addressing their problems. "The hype around escalating serious youth offending and alleged public concerns about unsafe communities is not supported by data. The figures have stayed quite steady for the past 10 years.

"Our youth justice system is based on making young offenders accountable for their actions, but also because they are children, on rehabilitation and restoration. These principles are the basis of our legislation and an international reputation for an effective youth justice system.

"The Family Court already has the authority to deal with Child Offenders, including parenting orders, it does not require a legislative change for this to occur.

"Occupying our army with running military-style activity camps seems a dreadful waste of their expertise, and does not guarantee that the expertise required to work with these hard-end children and young people, will be available.

The values we want to see in these children and young people of self-discipline, personal responsibility and community values are more likely to come from other options proposed such as specialised treatment foster homes, especially if their parents and families are part of this treatment," Dr Kiro said.

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