Children as young as 10 will be targeted by a new State program to stop troubled kids ending up behind bars.
Youth on Track is designed to keep minors who have received three or more police cautions from attending court and going to jail, they will be assessed and provided with services which address their needs.
NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said, “This is not about diverting young people from the legal process – it is about improving community safety by breaking the cycle of reoffending. It is about turning them away from crime and getting them back on track.” Existing programs to reduce offending behaviour are usually available only after a young person has been convicted of a criminal offence.
The program will be introduced in the Hunter Region, the Mid-North Coast and Blacktown. It will later be extended, allowing schools to refer children considered at risk for skipping school, hanging around with the wrong crowd and abusing drugs and alcohol. Those referred will be offered a voluntary spot in the program.
Mr Smith said, “Targeted services will respond to the underlying causes of crime which can be changed, and help these young people deal with issues like substance abuse, educational problems, anger issues, mental illness, and family dysfunction.” NSW has one of Australia’s highest rates of juvenile imprisonment.
The government expects to refer 300 cases to the program in the first 12 months. Most will be likely to have had their first contact with police before they are 14. – Aleysha Tombleson