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“We cannot arrest our way out of this”: Cairns speaks to youth justice reform committee

RHYS THOMAS

A FRONTLINE Cairns support agency has revealed the harrowing state of overcrowding in the Cairns Watchhouse during a recent hearing with the Youth Justice Reform Select Committee.

The committee, made up of parliament members from across the state, was established in October of last year to examine the ongoing reforms of the youth justice system and support for the victims of crime.

The hearing took place at the Crystalbrook Bailey and gave the committee a chance to hear directly from the members of the community after the effects of youth crime and possible solutions.

One organisation that spoke to the committee was Youth Empowered Towards Independence (YETI), which provides a range of critical support services, including towards youth.

YETI CEO Genevieve Sinclair made the strong statement that whatever solution or solutions decided on need to be appropriately staffed and have adequate rehabilitation programs that follow the incarceration of youth offenders.

Ms Sinclair said the number of children taken to the Cairns Watchhouse has doubled over the last 12 months and that something needs to be done to see these offenders out of detention and rehabilitated.

She also pointed out the strain on resources caused by understaffing and emphasised the importance of investing in rehabilitation and early intervention programs rather than relying solely on detention.

“What happens when we rely on things like detention to try and solve a problem? The experience we have had over the last 10 weeks in Cairns is that we’ve effectively overloaded the system that cannot cope,” Ms Sinclair said.

Ms Sinclair said YETI support workers are in the Cairns Watchhouse every day and have witnessed, at max, 18 children incarcerated with stays of up to two to three weeks being quite regular

“We cannot arrest our way out of this,” she said.

“We need to look at how we drive those numbers down.”

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Katter’s cash conundrum and Unity unveils comprehensive crime strategy.

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