More Aboriginal Children Heading For Detention If Bail Laws Changed, Experts Warn
"We give rogue youth every chance."
Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles has vowed to take away the option of bail for young people in the NT because people are "sick and tired of having their cars broken into". Aboriginal legal experts say the plan will have a "devastating" impact on Aboriginal youth.
"We give rogue youth every chance, but they still break into our homes, smash up our cars and cause trouble," Giles wrote in an angry Facebook post on Tuesday.
"They commit crimes, then they get bail, they commit more crimes, then they use diversion and it goes on and on, but we still end up getting our houses broken in to and our cars smashed up, and everything else."
"We’re considering legislation that says no longer will bad youths be given the presumption of bail," Giles wrote.
The government plans to introduce the bill into parliament next week. If passed, it will mean that anyone convicted of at least two property crimes in the past two years will be denied bail.
"Nobody wants to see a kid in jail, but nobody wants to see our cars getting smashed up and our houses getting broken into".
Wayne Muir, chairperson of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, has slammed the approach.
“You have to ask yourself why we want to send our kids to jail when we have overwhelming evidence that locking Australians up only exacerbates recidivism," Muir told BuzzFeed News.
At present, a staggering 98% of young people in juvenile detention in the NT are Aboriginal.
“The NT already locks kids up more often than anywhere else in Australia," Muir said. "We do this at five times the national rate. The harm caused to children on unsentenced remand will ultimately have the opposite effect on improving community safety."
Giles' calls for a harder law and order stance for young offenders in the NT comes just months after the member for Stuart, Bess Price, said that prison had benefits for Indigenous people.
"While they are being imprisoned, they don't get to drink, they don't get into trouble, they are fed three times a day," Price told the ABC. "They are in there with their family members."
Aboriginal people currently make up 86% of the adult prison population in the NT.