Support For Criminal Justice Reform Via Outback Ranch Program Welcomed

Written by:
15 March 2024
Support For Criminal Justice Reform Via Outback Ranch Program Welcomed - Featured image

“Momentum is building for criminal justice reform with further support for proposals to establish innovative outback ranch work programs to get troubled youths off the streets, give them skills, and get them into work,” said Mia Schlicht, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

The IPA welcomes the initiative of the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton and David Littleproud, who yesterday gave their support for further investment in outback youth work centres as an alternative to juvenile detention.

The announcement follows research by the IPA provided to Queensland’s Youth Justice Reform Select Committee, which proposed expanding the use of outback rehabilitation ranches for youth offenders. The analysis found:

  • The overall number of youth offenders in Queensland has declined over the last decade by 18 per cent, while the number of violent youth offenders has surged by 45 per cent.
  • In Queensland the proportion of youth offenders that will return to youth detention within 12 months of their release is 69% compared to the national average of 58%.
  • Youth detention centres in Queensland are operating at 98% of their designed capacity, prompting the government to propose a $250 million investment in a new detention facility to address overcrowding concerns.

“Violent youth crime in Queensland is out of control. This is why it is so important pre-emptive and pioneering criminal justice reform is delivered to ensure young offenders do not descend into habitual criminal behaviour,” said Ms Schlicht.

Last year, the Katter’s Australian Party proposed implementing outback rehabilitation centres to combat youth crime, and with the federal opposition’s support for similar proposals, momentum is building behind a long overdue focus on criminal justice reform.

“The reality is young offenders are not afraid of the consequences of breaking the law. We need new and innovative ideas to prevent young offenders from entering a life of crime and to get them into meaningful careers.”

“Every jurisdiction in Australia needs comprehensive criminal justice reform that locks away violent offenders, while also ensuring robust diversionary programs are in place to prevent non-violent offenders from recidivism and allows them to work,” said Ms Schlicht.

IPA research has found that Queensland taxpayers are spending $669,308 each year per youth offender in detention. Adopting the United States model of rehabilitation ranches, such as Rancho Cielo located in California, could decrease reoffending, meaning taxpayers would ultimately save more than $500,000 per year per offender.

“Rancho Cielo operates at about a quarter of the cost of the local youth detention centre and has reduced the reoffending rates from 40 per cent to 15 per cent, making the community safer,” said Ms Schlicht.

“Rehabilitation ranches have succeeded in removing troubled youth from their anti-social environments and placing them in programmes to equip them with employable skills so they can become self-sufficient and productive members of society.”

To download the IPA’s research click here.

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