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Research For Reform: The Experience of Children on Remand in Victoria Applied Research in Crime and Justice Conference, BOCSAR, NSW Michael Livingstone and Julie Boffa, Policy and Research Unit, Jesuit Social Services February 2013. About us and our research

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Research For Reform:

The Experience of Children on Remand in Victoria

Applied Research in Crime and Justice Conference, BOCSAR, NSW

Michael Livingstone and Julie Boffa,

Policy and Research Unit,

Jesuit Social Services

February 2013


  • About us and our research

    • Jesuit Social Services has more than 35 years of working with young people in the criminal justice system

    • Impetus for reform was the growing number of children on remand in Victoria and our knowledge of their vulnerability and disadvantage.

    • Reform all the more important within current context of ‘tough on crime’ political agendas


  • What can a human service organisation contribute to applied research?

  • Lead us to reflect on recent Op-Eds by David Brooks in The New York Times:

    • The Philosophy of data (5/2/2013)

    • What data can’t do (18/2/2013)

  • “Data is never raw ... there are value choices all the way through, from construction to interpretation”


  • Our mission influences the data we seek and the sense we make of it

  • Our conclusions reached far outside the four walls of a custodial facility in framing recommendations for reform

  • Matters effecting the social condition were as equally in scope as individual or system level reforms in the justice system


Different philosophical assumptions: research?A hybrid approach in Victoria


  • 2010-11 and 10 year VicPol LEAP data:11,695 children 10-17 years; 31,353 alleged offenders

  • Data from Youth Justice, DHS, Victoria:Full youth justice order history of 2358 children and young people with orders in 2010 (from first order to 4 May 2012)

  • Review of relevant literature and policy

  • Views of expert stakeholders

  • Observations of open Children’s Court bail hearings

  • Interviews with a small number of our program participants who had experienced remand as children


Limitations no excuse for inaction when reform for children is at stake

  • Combined, our data sources provided a strong foundation to recommend actions for reform

  • Notwithstanding limitations:

    • Victoria lacks a role like BOCSAR and linked data across the criminal justice system: individual pathways cannot be tracked

    • Gaps in the existing data sets: police bail outcomes; child characteristics and child protection cross-over in DHS data


Seven areas for reform is at stake

1. Intervene early and locally

2. Focus on prevention

3. Target Aboriginal disadvantage

4. Strengthen legislative protections for children

5. Maximise diversion from remand

6. Intensify support for the most vulnerable

7. Develop infrastructure to build evidence.

See www.jss.org.au


The adverse life circumstances and trajectories through the criminal justice system for the youngest offenders, especially Aboriginal children

The prominence of unnecessary short term remands


  • Statistical correlation between youth justice involvement and disadvantage, as measured through the SEIFA

  • 25% of children with youth justice orders in 2010 came from only 2.6% of postcodes

  • Children 14 or under at first youth justice order more likely to come from areas with higher numbers of vulnerable children including:

    • Areas with higher rates of developmental vulnerability on the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI)

    • Areas with higher rates of missed maternal child health appointments (from 8 months).

  • Only 27 children in the youth justice population in 2010 had experienced remand between the ages of 10 and 12. 30% were Aboriginal. All known to child protection (more than half of them before the age of 3 years).


  • 12% of the youth justice population in Victoria in 2010 were aged 14 years or under (274 children). 25% of youth justice population in 2010 had their first ever order at age 14 or under (578) – 41% for Aboriginal children (124).

  • 19% of offenders apprehended by police in 2010-11 were 13 or younger, however 36% had been under 13 at their 1st offence. 64% of Aboriginal child offenders had been 13 or under at 1st offence.

  • When all offences are taken into account, nearly half (46%) were committed by children under 13 at 1st offence.

  • 10 to 12 year olds who are remanded average 5.4 remand admissions, compared with 2.9 for those first remanded after the age of 12 (to May 2012)


Our youngest offenders: Recommendations is at stake

Increase the age of criminal responsibility to 12

Ensure the needs of children in the youth justice system are heard in child and family services

Break the cycle of Aboriginal children being involved in the justice system

Use clear risk factors to trigger intensive responses to indicated children.


Key findings: Unnecessary remands is at stake

  • 80% of arrests take place outside of the hours 9-5pm Monday to Friday.

  • 64% of remands lasted less than 21 days (noting in Victoria that children must return to court every 21 days for new remand orders), 39% less than 7 days.

  • twice as many weekend (40 per cent) as weekday (21 per cent) remand admissions are for one to three days.

  • When all remand episodes in 2010 are considered, 58 per cent ended in bail, 22 per cent ended with the expiry of a remand order, and only 16 per cent ended with a young person remaining remanded through to sentencing.


Unnecessary remands: Recommendations is at stake

Legislative framework for diversion and reform of the Bail Act

Support services must be available when children need them most.

Strengthen coordination between Child Protection and Youth Justice to prevent cross over

More timely assessment for vulnerable children to reduce exposure to remand.


A last word is at stake

“The imperative for action to improve the life changes of children must not be ignored”


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