News Child Youth and Family (CYF) wants to cut bed numbers across its youth justice residences has youth advocates urging caution.
CYF confirmed it is to consult with staff on a proposal to reduce its bed capacity by 10 across its four residences across the country.
The residences in South Auckland, Rotorua, Palmerston North and Christchurch have the capacity to hold 140 youth who are either arrested by police and put in CYF care, remanded in custody or given a custodial sentence.
CYF residential and high needs services general manager Nova Salomen said demand for beds at youth justice residences was falling.
"This has come about largely because of a notable drop in youth crime and youth court appearances and initiatives to keep young people who offend out of custody," Salomen said.
New Zealand Law Society youth justice committee convenor Mike Gardam urged caution, and did not want to see a return to the early 2000s when some youth were accommodated in police cells and other inappropriate facilities when residences were full.
"All it takes is one serious incident where multiple people are involved to cause a problem," Gardam said.
"The concern is we don't want to get too low on capacity . . . because it's like anything, once things are taken away, it's harder to put them back because resources go elsewhere."
Last year's Ministry of Justice figures show the number of youth appearing in court was at its lowest since 1992.
Youth court appearances peaked in 2007 at 5061, but that dropped 51 per cent to 2487 last year.
Labour children spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the use of non-custodial sentences had been proven effective when used appropriately.
But she said the number of youth residence beds needed "ebbed and flowed" and it would be "premature" to reduce bed numbers yet.
"What we don't want to see is a mismatch between a crime and its sentence just because there is no bed space available."
She hoped no job losses would come out the proposal, because demand on CYF was increasing.
- The Press