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Youth Crime Action Plan lacks ambition in key areas

Youth Crime Action Plan lacks ambition in key areas

JustSpeak welcomes the release of the Government’s new Youth Crime Action Plan.

“In the Youth Crime Action Plan, the Government has rejected a ‘tough on crime’ approach, and opted for policy that is ‘smart on crime.’ JustSpeak welcomes this shift,” says Tai Ahu.

“The Youth Crime Action Plan also promotes collaboration between Government agencies, Māori, communities, parents, schools and others to tackle youth crime and the factors that lead to offending. This approach has real potential.”

JustSpeak also supports the $400,000 ‘innovation fund’ for community based youth justice initiatives announced with the release of the Youth Crime Action Plan.

“However, the Youth Crime Action Plan lacks ambition in certain important areas.” says Tai Ahu.

“The Youth Crime Action Plan fails to set concrete goals for many important outcomes. For example, the Plan does not commit to explicit targets for reducing Māori and Pacifika over-representation in the youth justice system.”

“The Youth Crime Action Plan also fails to include 17-year-olds in the youth justice system. That means thousands of young people will miss out on the benefits of our World-leading approach to youth justice.”

JustSpeak has previously launched an open letter calling for 17-year-olds to be included in the youth justice system.

“The Youth Crime Action Plan also fails to acknowledge, investigate and address structural discrimination across the justice system, including ethnic profiling by Police.”

JustSpeak has produced a report card for the Youth Crime Action Plan.

“Using the standard NCEA grading schedule, we have given the Government the overall grade of Not Achieved. Our Youth Justice System is a potential Excellence student that is not realising its full potential.”

JustSpeak will submit its Youth Crime Action Plan report card to the Prime Minister.

“Improving outcomes in the youth justice sector would lead to safer communities for all New Zealanders. JustSpeak applauds this Government's commitment to working with the community in an evidence-based way to improve the youth justice system, as demonstrated by this report. But there's a lot more that could be done."

Youth Crime Action Plan: Report Card Prepared by JustSpeak

Government PlanGrade Comment
Preserves world-leading non-punitive approach to youth justice.

Emphasises the crucial role of local communities in prevention and reducing escalation of youth crime.

Takes small steps focused on improving existing initiatives and information sharing.

Not achieved (not realising full potential)The Youth Justice System is a potential “Excellence” student that is cruising at a “Not achieved” level.

We are not realising the full potential of our world-leading approach to youth justice. The Youth Crime Action Plan needs more ambition. The Plan fails to set concrete goals for many important outcomes which would allow New Zealanders to assess the Government’s progress.

JustSpeak’s own Youth Crime Action Plan would start by extending the youth justice system to include 17-year-olds, and commit to explicit targets for reducing Māori and Pacifika over-representation at all levels of the youth justice system.

Over-representation of Māori
The plan acknowledges Māori and Pacifika over-representation is large.

The proposed approach to this issue is more of the same: focus on improving existing systems and processes.

Not achievedActions in the plan are not commensurate with the identified over-representation of Māori and Pacifika in the criminal justice system.

We urgently need a step change in our approach. Start by:

recognising that we all need help overcoming instinctive racial biases, and the Police are no exception

investigating on an ongoing basis structural discrimination across the criminal justice system, including ethnic profiling by Police

ensuring resources are available to ensure every young person has access to Alternative Actions, rather than going to Youth Court for minor offences

boosting funding to innovative grassroots approaches to justice such as Rangatahi Courts

further empowering whanau to address offending

expanding Pacifika-, iwi- and Māori-led programmes.

Police decision-making
The plan includes a focus on increasing the number of apprehensions referred to Police Youth Aid and Alternative Actions.

The plan also provides guidance for Police officers to charge young offenders only when custody or bail with conditions is required.

Not achievedThe plan pushes Police decision-making in the right direction. However, there is a need to introduce increased scrutiny of Police decision-making to hold Police accountable for the stated goal of reducing escalation of young people within the criminal justice system. Start by:

Providing better options for young people to raise issue with Police decision-making and to have decisions reviewed

Introducing regular independent reviews of Police decision-making with regard to young people.

Involving young people in developing solutions
The plan includes no discussion of ongoing engagement with young people in the design and review of policy solutions for addressing youth crime.

The plan asks youth offending teams to involve community stakeholders in developing local youth crime action plans. However there is no reference to including young people in this process.

The plan promotes improvements to Family Group Conferences including increasing the involvement of victims, community stakeholders, and piloting iwi-led conferences.

Not achievedThe plan lacks a focus on involving young people in the design of interventions that affect them. Start by:

ensuring youth are involved in the development of youth crime community action plans

supporting young people with youth advocates at all non-court-ordered Family Group Conferences.

ensuring all young people are represented by youth advocates when they are questioned by police

seriously investigating youth justice procedures involving peers of young people, such as the Red Hook Community Justice Center, where decisions on minor offences are made by other young people.

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