YOUTH BEHIND BARS: The cost of keeping youth offenders behind bars is too high, according to a youth justice expert.
YOUTH BEHIND BARS: The cost of keeping youth offenders behind bars is too high, according to a youth justice expert. Brett Wortman

Cost of detention for young crims 'too high': Expert

AN EXPERT in youth justice says the cost of keeping young offenders in detention centres is extremely high, particularly when better options are available.

Associate director at the centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University Stan Winford says the cost of keeping juveniles accused of crimes, locked up, didn't "weigh up".

"The cost of detaining children is extremely high compared with the cost of bail support programs, which work just as well in reducing the risk of offending and ensuring that young people can access programs, supports and services in the community that address some of the underlying causes of offending," Mr Winford said.

Earlier this week, Child Safety Minister Di Farmer confirmed four young Bundaberg offenders were currently in detention at a cost to taxpayers of $1500 a day.

Most young Bundaberg offenders are detained at a special facility in Brisbane.

The Palaszczuk Government recently announced $280,000 in funding for local programs to help keep young Bundaberg offenders out of these centres.

Fisher Dore Lawyers Bundaberg lawyer Rian Dwyer said the $280,000 injection was "money well spent" and would lessen the overall cost to taxpayers by keep more youths out of detention.

Mr Dwyer said Bundaberg did not have a youth crime problem worse than other centres. "I think it ($280,000 funding) will be of benefit to the community, because it will help reduce the number of juveniles who are put into custody - and it will benefit the community by not having to foot the bill," Mr Dwyer said.

"The $280,000 would go to additional bail support and it may be the case with that additional money that the juvenile offender has somewhere to go, or a residence to go to or a support network to go to which may mean that person is not remanded in custody which benefits everyone, the taxpayer and the child."

Mr Dwyer said remanding youths in detention should be a last resort.

"Rehabilitation is a significant part of the sentencing as a young offender. It depends on the individual circumstances with the child as well," he said.

Mr Winford agreed that there were other options to be considered before remanding a youth in a detention centre, as a matter of safety as well as funding.

"Youth detention facilities are not as safe as bail support programs in the community," he said.

"The reasons given by police and courts for not releasing children on bail and remanding them are mostly to do with unacceptable risk of offending, and an absence of suitable accommodation," he said.

"Bail support programs enable children to be on bail in the community rather than put in detention centres.

"The key thing is for governments to ensure that police and courts have as many options as possible at their disposal, rather than detention alone."