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Youth justice facilities should expand and educate - ACT

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

ACT Leader David Seymour has announced Part 2 of ACT’s youth justice policy - boosting youth justice penalties and facilities while also promoting education for young offenders.

"This continues ACT’s determination to be both tough and smart on crime," says Mr Seymour. "First we need to protect innocent New Zealanders. Then we need to ensure young offenders gain the skills needed to lead peaceful and productive lives."

ACT would increase the period that young people can be sentenced to these facilities to 1 year, to remove them from the situations they were in when they were offending.

Currently youth justice facilities are available for young people on remand or sentenced to the youth court for 3-6 months.

ACT would fund more youth justice beds to house our most serious offenders. This will protect the public and reduce pressure on police cells.

There have been numerous examples since 2014 of our most serious youth offenders being held in police cells or bailed when they should be in a youth justice facility. No one wants to see young offenders locked in police cells due to overcrowding or equally out on bail if they are a risk to the public.

There are four youth justice facilities in New Zealand, with a total of 130 beds. ACT would increase the budget for secure youth justice residences from $33 million to $48 million (a $15 million boost).

ACT will prioritise education in youth justice facilities, and implement ACT’s highly commended Rewarding Self-Improvement in Prisons Policy in youth justice facilities so young offenders who achieve NCEA level 2 can get up to 6 weeks early release. This could eventually be rolled out to other qualifications.

The best way to break the cycle of youth offending is education. The 2013 Education Review Office report into the education services delivered in youth justice facilities found that the quality of education across most of the facilities was "not of a consistently high standard" and that "the quality of education at the residential schools needs to be improved".

80% of children and young people taken into CYF care have less than a NCEA Level 2 education. And a 2009 study of young people in a youth facility found that the overwhelming majority (84% boys and 100% of girls) had been truant from school - hence ACT’s policy announced yesterday to hold parents accountable for truancy.

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