Law Week 2018 Justice Journeys

William

William saw ‘two worlds’ of the youth justice system.

William saw ‘two worlds’ of the youth justice system as he went behind the scenes at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre and the Townsville Youth Justice Service Centre on his Justice Journey.

William with Jim and Solitaire, Court CoordinatorsWilliam with Jim and Solitaire,
Court Coordinators.

I was given an outstanding opportunity to learn about two different worlds of the youth justice system on my Justice Journey. Youth Justice’s goal is to provide a fair and balanced response to young people in contact with the youth justice system. I had the privilege of spending two informative days where I was tasked with challenges I had never encountered before including:

- pre-court case preparation of over 60 cases;

- understanding 600 plus abbreviations for a range of different offences;

- reading over pre-sentencing statements; and

- exploring the special features of the courts significant to young offenders.

I spent two days at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre (CYDC) and two days at the Townsville Youth Justice Service Centre.

My time at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre gave me an insight into the youth justice system process and the inner workings of a youth detention centre. It gave me further insight into how the system works as well as how it is seen through the eyes of young offenders. The majority of young offenders are aged between 13 and 15.

As soon as a case becomes public knowledge to the youth justice system and the lawyers from either the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Legal Aid or any other youth solicitor, immediate work begins with the youth justice court coordinator to prepare for court.  Their role is to provide the magistrate with the relevant information in order to reach a fair and just outcome for the child and to provide alternatives to incarceration because detention should always be the last resort.

I also learnt that there are a number of alternatives to detaining young people. These include programs that consist of the rehabilitation of young people aiming to reintegrate them back into the community. One of these programs is the Restorative Justice program. This program is run by Youth Justice and has the goal of trying to make the offender aware of the consequences their acts have on the victims and what opportunities they have in regard to redeeming themselves.

During my time at the Townsville Youth Justice Service Centre, I assisted with preparation for the court files for Childrens Court callover.  While continuing the preparation, I was overwhelmed at the volume of work Youth Justice was carrying out on an everyday basis.

I also learnt that at the youth detention centre, depending on the young offender’s behaviour, a young person may have the opportunity to participate at Cleveland Education and Training Centre.

The Cleveland Education and Training Centre is where youth offenders have the opportunity to participate in school and learning, and where teachers come to the CYDC in order to help educate young offenders – an example of the opportunities provided to offenders for rehabilitation. Other programs include arts and crafts, health and physical education, music, gym, woodwork and ceramics. The young people seem to be grateful for the opportunity they are given to productively use their time in a structured day.

William at CYDCWilliam outside the Cleveland
Youth Detention Centre.

I observed throughout my placement that other areas and employees work hard to ensure that young people are receiving the support necessary to assist them back into the community.  Staff ensure that young offenders have their rights protected while in the detention centre.

I felt greatly honoured to be able to attend court the morning of day two, side-by-side with the court coordinator carrying a huge pile of cases that I had helped organise the day prior.

I was also given the chance to sit in on a Childrens Court of Queensland case which focused on an attempted robbery charge.

I noticed that each court had its own style. The Childrens Court of Queensland, a special form of the District Court which deals with serious criminal offences, is considered more formal by having the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions submitting any necessary information. Whereas, in the Childrens Court which deals with Magistrates Court matters, a police prosecutor is the main prosecutor, and the discussion was more ‘casual’ in its approach. This was a great experience for me as the Childrens Court is usually closed to the public.

It has been a great experience over the four days of my Justice Journey. I really appreciated how accommodating other staff were to me, especially when making the time to engage in conversations about the various roles within Youth Justice and the CYDC. I was privileged to have such exposure to the youth justice system and it is definitely an area I will be keeping my eye on for the future.