Katter’s party wants to send young CQ law-breakers out west
YOUTH crime is shaping up to be a key issue for CQ in the coming state election and Katter's Australian Party believe they have the strategy to stop it in its tracks.
The party has floated a "cornerstone solution" to breaking the cycle of youth crime by giving magistrates in regional centres like Rockhampton, another sentencing option besides imprisonment or releasing juvenile offenders - relocation sentencing.
Under this strategy, "youths would be sent to a remote property where they would be taught life skills and given a sense of purpose".
KAP Leader Robbie Katter said his party had proposed a site for the state-funded youth reform centre at Lake Julius near Kajabbi, about 100km north of Mount Isa.
He said the overwhelming cost of keeping inmates at Townsville's Cleveland Juvenile Detention Centre, along with all-time high crime rates, meant urgent action was needed.
He said the Labor Government's recently announced trial of on-country programs for at-risk kids, was a "soft approach" which wouldn't go far enough in creating real change.
"The key difference is our policy provides a third sentencing option, other than juvenile detention and being let back out onto the streets, to those who are dealing with these kids in a court of law," Mr Katter said.
Along with operating on minimum costs, the KAP's proposed Relocation Sentencing facility will enable youth offenders to develop key life skills such trade and agricultural work.
The centre would operate in close co-operation with indigenous Elders and professional youth workers to ensure young offenders had the best shot possible at a productive and crime-free future following their release.
It would remove the offenders from the communities they had previously targeted and also from the negative influences that lead to their criminality.
"We think getting kids away from the distractions of any city is a good starting point to engage - the difficulty becomes when kids have to go back into the communities where they have previously been in trouble," Mr Katter said.
"Both short and long-term solutions of this crime crisis must look at its symptoms and causes: including generational unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse (including the effect in Queensland of the alcohol bans in the NT) and the effectiveness of the Youth Justice Act.
"The current state of affairs is far from a resolution and people living out here deserve the right policy that can deal with these kids effectively while at the same time trying to get them back into the community as contributors."
KAP's candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd said nipping youth crime in the bud before they could blossom into career criminals was important.
"It's vital that we put measures in place as soon as possible to stem the flow of young Queenslanders becoming experienced in, and desensitised to, committing criminal acts," Mr Shepherd said.
"It's also vitally important that we address the underlying conditions that contribute to criminal behaviour.
"Our youth need to be cared for by loving families that are adequately equipped to provide them with a healthy and happy upbringing."
Mr Shepherd's major focus during this election campaign and beyond will be ensuring regional Queenslanders have sufficient job opportunities.
"It's true that youth crime has been on the rise, however it's also true that many criminal acts, particularly crimes of aggressive and violent theft can be psychologically motivated by societal inequality.
"It's the duty of the government to ensure that all its citizens have a fair shot at providing a good standard of living for themselves.
"Everyone deserves an opportunity for the dignity, security, independence and comfort of a well paying job."
Keys points of the KAP Relocation Sentencing Policy
1. Applies to young, repeat offenders aged 10-17 who have been identified as 'at-risk' of recidivism and have a demonstrated history of escalating criminality.
2. Provides alternative sentencing (and/or bail arrangement) options to magistrates/judges when dealing with these offenders.
3. These alternative sentencing options include 'on-country' programs in a remote and approved location. Ankle bracelets would be used for added security, but security would largely be maintained through distance and isolation.
4. An incentive system, based on points and certificate awards, would allow the offenders to feel a sense of achievement. This would include qualifications towards things such as a windmill technician, master butcher and stockman, but would not be limited to primary industries.
5. The ultimate goal of Relocation Sentencing is to provide these children life skills, education and a sense of purpose not available to them on the streets or in juvenile detention facilities.
6. It would be available to both indigenous and non-indigenous children, and programs would draw heavily on the involvement and teachings of first Australian elders.
7. The KAP has identified a series of possible facility locations in North West Queensland, such as Lake Julius (north of Mount Isa) - it is envisioned multiple locations will be established across the state in strategic areas.
8. The program is designed to be the ultimate 'circuit-breaker' for repeat, young offenders who are likely to reoffend if returned to the streets and are at-risk of further "criminalisation" if incarcerated at juvenile detention centres.