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Major Parties Block Greens Move to Keep Kids Out of Adult Prisons

15 November 2023

The Labor and Liberal parties have joined forces to block a Greens motion in the Upper House to disallow regulations that enable children to be detained in adult facilities.

The regulations were gazetted on 3 August and continue the practice of permitting children as young as 10 years of age who are taken into custody further than 40km of Adelaide’s General Post Office to be detained in a police prison or station, watch-house or lock-up.

A 2022 report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People found that children were arrested or detained in SA Police cells or watch houses at least 2,030 times in 2020-2021 and of those admissions 43.8% were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young people. A further report tabled in State Parliament this month found that 39 young people under the age of 14 years were detained at the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre in 2022-23 and raised serious concerns about the use of restraints and self-harm threatening children’s safety.

“No child should be detained in prison, police station or watch-house. Jailing children in adult facilities can cause significant cognitive harm that affects their wellbeing into their adult life and puts them on a pathway that results in continuous contact with the criminal system. It’s vital that they are kept out of the carceral system,” said Greens SA Justice Spokesperson Robert Simms MLC.

“The expiry of the old regulations presented an opportunity for the Government to consider intervention and programs that divert children from the criminal justice system. Instead, the major parties have decided to maintain the status quo.”

Mr Simms has a Bill before parliament to raise the age of criminal responsibility in South Australia from 10 to 14.