The axing of a new youth detention facility in the State Budget had condemned hundreds of young South Australians each year, some as young as 10, to spend their days in the grim decrepit confines of Magill Youth Training Centre.
Many will spend their nights on a mattress on a single wooden bunk in a 2m x 3m cell off a narrow corridor, unrelieved by a picture on the wall or a desk or a chair.
The toilets are down another corridor. Taps leak, tiles are broken and the cut-off doors afford no privacy. The windows are rendered opaque by grime, thick bars and wire mesh.
This tired and threadbare institution sabotages the efforts of staff to provide a safe and positive environment. It sends the clear message to staff and young residents alike that they are worthy of nothing better, seriously undermining the work of rehabilitation.
This decision is poor economics. For each of these young people we allow to graduate into a life of crime the cost to policing, the justice system and prisons is many times over the cost of rehabilitation.
It leaves South Australians in breach of international rules to provide ‘facilities and services that meet all the requirements of health and human dignity’ for juvenile offenders.
But most of all it is profoundly unkind and uncaring to some of our most vulnerable young people. I challenge any Minister responsible for this budget to spend an hour or two with the children in Magill and not feel deeply ashamed.
Published in The Advertiser 8 June 2009.