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Kids in Adult Prisons – only in Queensland

August 18, 2010 2 comments

Eighteen years ago, on the 5th of August, 1992, the Queensland Labor Government made a pledge to amend the law so that 17 year olds would be transferred back into the juvenile (now, “Young People”) detention system and taken out of the adult prison system. Labor has forgotten its pledge to Queensland children and there is a campaign afoot to remind it.

You might wonder why this matters. You might also think there’s nothing you can do about it. I know: both those thoughts crossed my mind too. Some time ago now, I’d worked for almost 2 years in criminal defense, which is enough time to become cynical about the world and burnt out by the misery of it all – so much so that defending insurance companies afterward seemed like a cake walk. However, I digress.

In 1992, when the Juvenile Justice Act (now, “Youth Justice Act”) was passed by Queensland Parliament, the Labor Government pledged:

“It is the intention of this Government, as it was of the previous Government, to deal with 17-year old children within the juvenile, rather than the adult system, as per the Kennedy Report into prisons. This is consistent with the age of majority and avoids such children being exposed to the effects of adults in prison, thereby increasing their chances of remaining in the system and becoming recidivists. This change will occur at an appropriate time in the future.” (Qld Parliament, 5 August 1992:p.6130).

There’s always been the legislative scope to easily change the position to allow 17 year old offenders to be dealt with pursuant to the Youth regime rather than the adult regime, but no regulation has ever been established, meaning Queensland is the only state that treats 17 year old offenders as adults.

This raises a number of questions:
* Why use tax-payer money to fund a report which the government chooses to ignore? I want a refund. Or value for money. And an apology to the author of the report.
* If Queensland is the Smart State, how come the law defines an adult to be an adult of 18 years except when it’s a 17-year old committing a crime here and not elsewhere? Something yonder brays.
* Under the Child Protection Act, there is an obligation to investigate incidents of children who may be at risk of harm. How does this work when the government is the one putting the child in harm’s way?
* Is it not foreseeable that putting child offenders in with adult offenders would increase risk of injury to the minors? One might cough sideways three times in a way which could sound like “negligence”.
* How is this not a contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? (as Damian Bartholomew points out).

Queensland’s Children’s Commission, Anti Discrimination Commissioner, Queensland Heads of Churches, United Nations and youth and legal advocates have urged the government to fulfill its commitment to transfer 17-year olds from adult prisons to juvenile detention centres. The Youth Affairs Network Qld, which is the peak body promoting the rights and interests of young people in Queensland, has postcards circulating, which people can write comments on and send in to the Premier, Anna Bligh. While one must appreciate that there are plenty of other priorities in government, especially now, with election fever and State Labor struggling in the polls, it’s inexcusable that a decision can take that long to implement. But of course, bad kids don’t win sympathy or votes in voter-land. Besides, kids don’t vote, either, so screw that.

You might ask what’s the hold up. The answers would seem to be: money and public sentiment. The spoils of the never-ending mining boom have been lost and there simply is no money to improve or extend existing facilities for young people – it’s easier and cheaper not to change things. And besides, most people wouldn’t know this was even an issue and even fewer would care, unless they really thought about it.

I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the debate. Police, who are faced with controlling other people’s unruly and criminally-inclined children are sick of the repeat offenders and the slack, limp-wristed punishment given to young offenders (which don’t have the requisite deterrent effect). Police have no interest in amending the law, and who can blame them. No-one should have to put up with the rubbish that they endure on a daily basis, while the rest of us sit back and demand better law and order but vote with our eyes closed, nonetheless.

Youth advocates also come in all shapes and sizes and have dedicated their lives to trying to help the sometimes un-helpable. Which begs the question: how, as a society, are we letting it get to this?

My personal view is that the law should be consistent – an adult is an adult, not a child with one year to go – and the government has a responsibility to children in its facilities (to protect them from harm and not to put them into an environment which all but removes any chance of rehabilitation). To that effect, the law should be changed, as promised. However, we’ve had Labor both at State and Federal levels and I, for one, would like to know why so little has been done in the way of law and order as well as for the protection of children. The social engineering sins of the past are wildly bearing fruit and rotting before our eyes. And it stinks.

Children go off the rails for various reasons, but they stay off the rails because of inadequate parenting, inappropriate social infrastructure and the decay of respect for the law and those who uphold it.

Demand that the law be changed, but also demand a change to the circumstances that see those children going to prison in the first place.

Thanks to readers: David, aa, Cheryl, Darren and ak.

Please feel free to add your comments, below. Anonymity will be respected.

UPDATE:
This issue makes Australia look bad internationally. It transcends political battle lines.
Thank you to the following people for their speedy and thoughtful responses:
Damian Bartholomew, solicitor.
Wendy Francis, Lead Senate Candidate for Family First http://www.wendy4senate.com
Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, The Greens Candidate for the Division of Lilley
Andrew Bolt, journalist. http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt
Nick Earls, author http://www.nickearls.com – Thanks for the words of support!

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K Rudd ‘on the hustings’ …

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Rudd’s from Queensland and he’s back again, to help some more …

I’m not sure why, but the image of our rebel chook, sitting on top of the 8-kilo cat’s pussy palace, resonates. Perhaps both K-Rudd and Dixie have a death-wish? But unlike Dixie, K-Rudd seems to have more than one life.

In fact, watching internal Labor politics of late is reminiscent of some 80s horror flicks. Probably Dead. Then Alive. Then Probably Dead Again. Alive Again. Then Really Truly Dead. Until the Sequel. And there’s always a humongous knife left lying around.

With K-Rudd crawling out of hospital and back onto the hustings, voters are left wondering how the sequel will end. And how many sequels there’ll be.

(With apologies to Dixie the chicken.)

Categories: Australia, Pets, Politics

LOL: Joolia Trickles Up (video link)

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Finally, someone nails the Julia Gillard effect, perfectly. Sadly, I won’t be able to get that voice out of my head for the rest of the day … The question is: would she sound better in Opposition? I’m starting to think so.

The New Real Julia is the Former Julia on an even slower bpm (beats per minute). Just. In. Case. Voters. Miss. Any. Of. The. Mar-vell-ous-ness. I’m wondering where the Original Julia went.

I’m told, by people who’ve worked with her in the past, that she’s a warm, engaging, funny and highly intelligent and competent person. Perhaps the Labor machine chewed that one up and hopes voters don’t notice that Julia’s been replaced with a metronome set on largo. Perhaps it’s to lull voters into thinking there’s no way a person who speaks so slow, could pull a knife so fast.

Sixteen more days of unabated boredom to come. This has been one of the dullest campaigns in memory.

A metranome in Brisbane, today.

Spies: Just Like in the Movies

Russian spies are back in vogue, it seems. The question is, has anything changed?

Last week, Yours Truly was treated to the Brisbane preview of the gripping French spy thriller, “Farewell”. This week, it was almost as if life were imitating art, with the dramatic arrests of alleged Russian spies or sleeper agents, on American soil: Russian Spy Ring.

“Farewell” is an engaging and intelligent film, which is easy to watch and hard to forget. It even pokes fun at the French, which makes it laugh-out-loud funny in places (early in the film). The chilling realism of that era in Communist Russia, however, is deeply unsettling. Anyone who’s feeling apathetic about democracy should see the film.

The movie is based on fact (Google: “The Farewell Dossier”) and gives viewers an eye-opening understanding of the why and how of the Soviet Union’s rapid collapse at the end of the Cold War. For more detail, see Farewell Movie review. Please note that the scriptwriters took some liberties with the characterization of the hero (Vladimir Vetrov, who is Grigoriev in the movie), making him much nicer than he probably was.The film ignores that he likely stabbed his mistress to death (in the car scene) while intoxicated and that his imprisonment related to this rather than to the much nobler reason presented in the film. Still, as far as anyone can tell, before being imprisoned for murder, he did leak the information to the French and Americans, which in turn helped unhinge the Soviet Union. The reason the world had the opportunity to find out the truth or approximate truth about this point in history, may have a lot to do with the hero’s bragging in prison. After all, what’s success, when nobody else can admire you for it? But then, how can we ever know for sure when the lives of spies are built lie upon lie and oppressive regimes are lies grown large?

The agents who were arrested in America this week, had been embedded in communities and working towards a singular goal for about a decade – that the government admits to knowing of, anyway. In the context of having seen “Farewell” and read some of the historical background to the film, I’ll admit to feeling a tad nervous about this new turn of events. I’ll also confess to feeling some concern about the timing of the arrests. Was it a case of QUICK LOOK OVER THERE!? while the flailing Obama administration tries to look tough and pull itself together on other unpopular domestic disasters? After all, these agents were under observation for about a decade. Why the sudden rush to make it public (not that I’m suggesting America starts arresting people in cognito)? Maybe Obama needed a clear excuse to back away from the difficult relationship between the countries, which was compromising America’s moral authority as well as its geo-political supremacy. Handing olive branch after olive branch to a big bear is going to get you eaten, eventually, even if the big bear seems a thin shadow of its former self. On the back of Russia’s growing mineral wealth and strategic alliances, the Putin bear is bulking up again…

Politicians know there’s nothing like a well-timed, stage-managed crisis to get the public behind them. But how could I say such a thing? Of course, Mr Obama just had hamburgers with the Russian Premier this week. Maybe it was Obama’s sense of humour as well as his sense of timing, in offering his visitor what is known as a “Hell Dog” or “Hell Burger” (because of the chillies) only days before busting this spy ring in the open. Mr Obama, the Hell Burgers will go down a treat in the film adaptation of your presidency. I’ll buy popcorn for that one…

I guess the world can only hope that Mr Obama knows what he’s doing and that he’s getting better advice than Hillary did when she gave the Russians a box with a red button in it and a dodgy translation. “Reset” indeed. It’s certainly starting to feel cold again….