The juvenile justice system

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) manages young offenders by means of supervision within the community or within Juvenile Justice Centres under remand or control (sentenced) orders. Under the Children’s (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 and associated legislation, young offenders are defined as aged between 10 and 18 years. Depending on the security and risk level of a detainee, offenders can be transferred into the adult correctional system when they turn 18 years of age, though in special circumstances older offenders may remain in the care of DJJ.

Our juvenile clients commonly report experiences of neglect and physical, emotional or sexual abuse. This is particularly the case with young women. Many detainees report that they have experienced significant relationship problems in their families, leading to periods of homelessness and a large number leave school before completing year 8. Due to their educational deficits and poor self-esteem, most have limited employment choices and report feeling powerless and socially isolated. Many abuse alcohol and other drugs, seeking refuge in a delinquent peer group.

The average daily number of juveniles being cared for by the Department of Juvenile Justice is approximately 300, however numbers are declining as a result of diversionary programs to manage offenders in the community. In addition, there are over 650 children on community orders on a daily basis. In total, the Department of Juvenile Justice assists approximately 3,000 young people per year who are remanded in police cells or Juvenile Justice Centres.

Detainee Facts

  • 48% identify as Aboriginal and / Torres Straight Islander in 2009, 6 points higher than in 2003.
  • In 2009, 35% report having been physically abused, 10% sexually abused, 36% had experienced emotional neglect and 33% physical neglect.
  • Severe child abuse of young women before offending had nearly doubled between 2003-2009.
  • 14% of males and 27.5% of females had seriously considered attempting suicide; the rate of attempted suicide in young females doubled since 2003.
  • 32% of young men and 30% of young women have mild hearing loss.
  • 45% of participants have a history of parental imprisonment and 10% had a parent who was currently incarcerated.
  • 17% of young men and 47% of young women had injected drugs in the twelve months prior to custody.
  • Almost 90% of all detainees have used cannabis and most adolescents report having consumed alcohol and being drunk at some time in the past.
  • 69% of youth offenders reported being under the influence of illicit drugs at the time of their offense.

Source: Justice Health Young People in Custody Survey 2009

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