Youth Justice Access to Computers in Cells

5th Australasian Youth Justice Conference
Strengthening Connections: The Power of Relationships & Strong Service Partnerships

April 16, 2024

Read the full report on the Youth Justice Conference here.

Nowhere in Australia have youth justice authorities given children access to communication or information while they are isolated in cells. Youth are digital natives but they spend over 14 hours a day in a cell, bored and with no means to develop or make positive connections. They can’t use that private time to get counselling or to engage with their community, elders and families.

Adult prisoners in the ACT have safely had computers in cells for 16 years, and now all NSW have too. Kids in youth justice are mostly Aboriginal, disadvantaged, with only negative political clout and no real support.

The NSW Minister for Youth Justice was questioned during Budget Estimates (31/10/23) on the provision of computer tablets to youth detainees. His Department said they will be provided by the end of the 2024 financial year (p.72.9) But now they say they haven’t the money. The cost to imprison one child in NSW is $1m per year, in Victoria $1.8m.

Youth Justice NSW was questioned about detainee violence resulting in long term segregation (p41.9). Overseas research has shown a 60% reduction of violence against staff after providing tablets. Research for adult NSW prisoners shows the same trend. Instead of being isolated in their cells most of the time, they now have access to family, music, education and rehabilitation services.

Youth Justice NSW said they have 42 psychologists for the 212 detainees [p42.8] offering up to 1 hour a week [p54.1]. However their psychologists are seen by detainees as having a conflict of interest – they are engaged by management in decisions and yet need trust for effective counselling. By providing access to culturally appropriate external counsellors, via the tablets in the cells, trust can be created with mainstream funded services as well as continuity of contact after release.

It is not surprising that youth recidivism is over 60%, with problems incubated in detention and nothing positive offered. With at least 60% being Aboriginal, it’s essential that this obvious game changer be adopted nationally and authorities be forced to put their words into action as the highest priority. No more “scoping” or “pilot studies” when everyone knows access to telecommunications is an essential human right. Let the authorities personally lose access for a day and then understand.

The Nairobi Declaration for Detainee Telecommunications Rights (overleaf) needs action in support from all involved in youth justice, or to explain why not.

PAN AFRICA CURE 9th International Conference May 1-5, 2023

Millions of people around the world are locked in cages, unnecessarily isolated from their communities.

Their contact with their families, and access to legal, health, rehabilitation and educational services are restricted due to physical barriers. In the past, those barriers have made such access difficult, impossible or impossibly expensive.

The general population now has access to the internet where communication and information is available, often publicly funded, for little or no cost. This has disadvantaged detainees as email and websites have displaced letters and correspondence courses.

More and more, access to the Internet is necessary to function at a basic level – socially, legally, and politically. We live in a digital age, but detainees are further disadvantaged by being left digitally illiterate and without the skills to contribute to the welfare of themselves, their families, and society at large.

All detainees have the human right to:

1. Communicate with others through telecommunications: email, messaging and video calls;

2. Express themselves publicly;

3. Receive publicly available information, including but not restricted to legal, telehealth, education and counselling information;

4. Earn payment through services rendered in their private time, enabling them to maintain their families, contribute to society and prepare for release;

5. Access such services on the same level of availability and financial basis as water, food and bedding

Click here to read more about Youths in Prisons

Click here to red more about Computers in Cells