Views: life inside Ashley Youth Detention Centre

5 Feb 2011

As the first in a series of books by the young people in Ashley Youth Detention Centre, this publication aims to provide insight into the circumstances of their lives inside and their hopes for the future.

In a letter at beginning of Views: life inside Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Tasmania's Commissioner for Children Paul Mason writes:

Last year 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the Un Convention on the Rights Of The Child (CROC), “child” being anyone under 18. Article 12 of CROC says:

“States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting
the child.”

Article 40 of CROC says children have the right for youth justice systems to promote reintegration and for them to assume a constructive role in society.

This is the first of many books you will see from the young people inside Ashley. It proves two things:

1.    Ashley residents are people – pretty ordinary teenagers caught in an extraordinary situation;
2.    It is not hard for Tasmania to honour them as people by listening to what they have to say.

Most of the residents in Ashley and their families have been clients of Child Protection during their young lives. Most of them are waiting for a Court case to decide whether they have broken the law or what should happen to them if they have. Today as I am writing 70% are not serving a sentence but are there on remand.

There are too many Aboriginal residents in Ashley for the general population. Today 30% are Aboriginal when Aborigines are only 3% of the total Tasmanian population. That is a 1,000% over-representation!

The 2009 Australian Institute of Criminology report found no significant difference between the reoffending of juveniles locked up and those not locked up. Other studies in the last 10 years report that custodial sentences actually increase reoffending.

Only children and young people can change anything inside themselves. If the idea of locking them up is to help them, then we start by finding out what it is like to be in Ashley, not as we imagine it, but as they tell us.

Then we can start to work out what tools they need to make change and break the chains that bind them to Ashley. The voice this book gives them may be one of those tools.

The frank expression of feelings in it would not have happened without the presence inside of the Ashley Residents’ Advocate a position created in 2008 independent of the Government which manages Ashley. It also could not have happened without the active help of Ashley’s own management team and the Ashley School, a State public school on the grounds. They genuinely want what we all want.

And it could not have happened without the residents telling it like it really is for them. Please read every word.

Paul Mason Commissioner August 2010

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