Four Corners - Kids Doing Time

Reporter Matthew Carney goes inside to see first hand the conditions young offenders in juvenile detention are forced to endure. He goes with them when they're out of jail and trying to go straight and he asks why there aren't better support services to help them keep on the right side of the law.
Whenever an election comes around it seems state politicians can win easy votes by promising to get tough on crime. But those kinds of policies have consequences. For many young offenders it means they will be arrested, charged and forced to spend time in juvenile detention centres. Authorities say while they are there they will have access to rehabilitation programs. Inmates tell another story.
In NSW, that "lock 'em up" policy combined with tougher policing has seen an explosion in the number of children in custody. In the last two years the number of young people inside on remand has risen by 32 per cent.
Keeping a teenager in detention costs $150,000 a year. That money may keep them off the streets but it doesn't guarantee rehabilitation. In fact, all the evidence suggests the longer the children stay inside the more likely they are to commit more crimes.
Matthew Carney goes with a young offender, Phil, who has just been released from custody. Phil admits he's been inside so long he doesn't know how to look after himself. He's never had a mother or father to look after him and he says that he's kept himself alive by bashing people for money.
Four Corners has obtained leaked figures from the Department of Juvenile Justice that show assaults have increased from 187 in 2007 to 242 in 2008 and now look set to rise again this year. Self harm incidents are also rising dramatically. These figures have led some experts to suggest the system of juvenile justice in New South Wales is in crisis.

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Producer: 
Production Year: 
2009
Duration: 
45 mins
Series Episode
Standard $165
Schools $88
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