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Police cells no place for a child, says Bradford

12 May, 2004

Police cells no place for a child, says Bradford

Green MP Sue Bradford today called on the Government to urgently address the needs of young offenders in the upcoming Budget announcements, in light of "shocking" revelations a 16 year-old boy has been locked in police cells for nine days.

Ms Bradford said the Government was failing to address the situation at both ends - not only were not enough beds being provided in secure facilities for young people, but the Government was not doing enough about the causes of youth offending such as poverty and children being lost out of the school system.

"The Government must take responsibility at both ends for the fact that young people from all over New Zealand are being locked up in adult police cells," said Ms Bradford, the Green Party Social Services spokesperson.

"I am shocked at how many young people have been locked up in police cells for many days at a time. A police cell is no place for a young person. That a 16 year-old could spend nine days in a windowless cell proves how seriously under-resourced CYF is to cope with youth offending.

"While the Government has built a new youth facility in South Auckland and has another one on the way in Christchurch, why are there still not enough beds?" she asked. "This problem has existed since long before this Labour government came to power, and will exist long after, unless this Government takes the bull by the horns and actually provides enough beds to meet the realities of demand."

Ms Bradford said that more attention should also be given to the causes of youth offending, such as poverty and long-term unemployment. Some families trapped in inter-generational poverty tend to be totally alienated and it is often their children who end up as youth offenders.

"I am also convinced that many young people who end up committing major crimes actually have mental health problems," she said.

"The latest Blueprint Report published last week shows that, once again, mental health services for children and young people are falling even further behind in terms of meeting needs, proportionate to the rest of mental health resourcing.

"The Government has a good opportunity in the upcoming Budget to provide more resources to assist young people and families, from taking major steps to end child poverty and improving child and adolescent mental health resourcing through to simply providing more beds within the youth justice system."


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