Youth Custody Index aims to break cycle of youth incarceration
Too many young people in custody have found themselves in trouble because that is how they were brought up, a student involved in a new report says.
St Thomas of Canterbury College students launched their latest National Youth Custody Index at the Nga Hau E Wha National Marae in Aranui, Christchurch, on Wednesday.
The index, which is in its fourth year, was collated by eight students and facilitated by the Chief Ombudsman, Judge Peter Boshier.
Anaru Shadbolt, 16, said the index was a "legacy project", which he hoped could contribute to breaking the cycle of youth incarceration.
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The number of children and youth appearing in court had increased by 6 per cent since 2015, while Maori made up 64 per cent of those in custody, up from 46 per cent in 2006.
Anaru, who is of Maori descent, said he had seen a lot of his family members locked behind bars.
He believed most Maori incarceration was due to witnessing criminal lifestyles at a young age.
"The victims become the offenders – monkey see, monkey do," he said.
Index leader Te Aotahi Rice-Edwards, 17, said the information the students gathered was not positive, but contributed to the ongoing debate about the incarceration of young New Zealanders.
The students approached prison youth units, care and protection youth justice facilities and education providers.
The report said police sometimes held youth in less than desirable environments because of a lack of space in youth facilities, often breaching United Nations protocol.
It was revealed last week that 168 children and youths were remanded in police custody around the country in the year to April. Last week, 11 were held alongside adults.
Christchurch Judge Jane McMeeken put social-welfare authorities on notice on June 21, saying they must find accommodation for a 14-year-old boy facing a robbery charge because she could not keep remanding him to a police cell.
She visited the cell and said it was "outrageous" he had been kept there for several days.
Judge Becroft said on Wednesday that keeping young people in such conditions was "utterly unacceptable".
"It's something of a crisis, police cells are not the place for formal remand," he said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Development said: "Its great young people are taking an interest in this area and we support anything that usefully contributes to the discussion about how to be more effective in turning around the behaviour of young people who offend."
The ministry did not contribute information for the index because the students' requests were too large in scope and it could not respond in time.