Dealing with Youth Crime

The following is not my creation, but it parallels my thoughts on the matter, and comes from the Synod. It was published in The Age on March 8th.

The Victorian government needs to follow through on the lessons from other countries in reducing youth crime (‘‘Damning report on youth justice’’, The Age, 7/3). The parts of the US that have adopted the ‘‘lock ‘em up and treat ‘em mean’’ approach towards teenagers who break the law have seen disastrous results. A report released by the Harvard Kennedy School in October 2016 concluded the hard evidence showed this approach reduced community safety, destroyed the future of young people and wasted large amounts of government revenue that could be better spent addressing the causes of crime.

By contrast, the New Zealand government has adopted an approach of seeking to rehabilitate teenagers who break the law, get their lives back on track and heal the community. In the past six years youth crime in New Zealand has dropped by 40 per cent and the number of children appearing in court has dropped to its lowest number in 20 years. The approach has been to foster greater collaboration between schools, government agencies, community organisations and the police to better support families to address their children’s behaviour that causes them to break the law.

Mark Zirnsak, senior social justice advocate, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia

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