Naming and shaming of young offenders: implications of changes to ‘youth justice’ policy in Queensland

by D. Stevens

Recent amendments to the Queensland Government’s Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 have been met with concern from a range of commentators and organisations including Amnesty International. This amendment has been branded ‘naming and shaming policy’ as it allows the names of young offenders to be publicised. Greater consideration is needed, however, relating to the implications this amendment may have for rehabilitation and future prospects, particularly relating to employability.  What would be the impact if young offenders are ‘named and shamed’ on a tabloid program such as Today Tonight, for example?

There are major concerns that this amendment will further stigmatise young people as a group. Shadbolt has argued that this new stance from the Queensland Government will negatively impact the most overrepresented group of young people within the justice system in Queensland: the Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander community. His concerns relate to fears of an increase to suicide risk within this group of young people (Shadbolt, 2013). It is also important to mention that evidence shows that ‘shaming that stigmatises is likely to have negative rather than positive rehabilitating outcomes’ (Chappell & Lincoln 2007). The naming and shaming policy has stakeholders concerned that it “…will further damage, demonise and criminalise young people” caught up in the Youth Justice system. 

Young people are afforded many protections regarding their privacy which is protected by both State and Federal obligations and also international human rights obligations such as the United Nations Conventions of the Rights of a Child. But we should ask why these rights not apply when we segregate young people further into other subgroups, in this instance youth offenders? Chappell and Lincoln argue that ‘name and shame’ measures are typically underpinned by the impression that such measures are needed, though there is a lack of evidence backing the measure. The Government of the day in Queensland has perpetuated a particular perception of juvenile offenders. The Governor General for example has described these young people as “a generation of arrogant recidivist young offenders” (Bleijie, 2013). However the statistics of the offending behaviour of young people in Queensland simply do not support this (Shadbolt, 2013).

The implications that this policy will have on young people in Queensland will not be seen in the immediate future but further into these young people’s adulthood. The policy will impact on employability, for example, through the potential of the ‘one click’ online search of a name to reveal such information. This policy is detrimental to the young people of Queensland who have come into contact with the juvenile justice system and the stigmatisation of this group is something that will follow them throughout their lives. The policy can be viewed as a knee-jerk reaction to perceptions and not evidence and is concerning for the impact that the different systems pressures that young people face and needs to be addressed sooner than later.

References

Amnesty International. (2014). Youth justice to become an injustice. Retrieved from http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/33823/ . Date accessed 28 April 2014

Bleijie.J, (2013). Reforms get tough on crime : Media Statement. [online]. Retrieved from: http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2013/9/26/reforms-get-tough-on-youth-crime. Date accessed: 28 april 2014

Chappell.D., Lincoln.R. (2009). ‘Shhh … We Can’t Tell You’: An Update on the Naming Prohibition of Young Offenders [online]. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 20, (3) 476-484. Retreived from:http://sydney.edu.au/law/criminology//journal/index.shtml‎.

Chappell, Duncan and Lincoln, Robyn. Abandoning Identity Protection for Juvenile Offenders [online]. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol. 18, No. 3, Mar 2007: [481]-487. Retreived from: http:// sydney.edu.au/law/criminology//journal/index.shtml

Rev.Ronalds.K. (2014). Uniting Church: Youth Justice reforms will damage youth. [Media release]. Retrieved from http://ucaqld.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/12-2-14-Youth-Justice-reforms-Press-Release-FINAL.pdf. Date accessed: 29/4/2014

‎Shadbolt, G.(2013). Naming and shaming youth offenders: Bonfire of the vanities [online]. Indigenous Law Bulletin, 8 (9) 3-6. Retrieved from:http://search.informit.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=801648877990753;res=IELIND  ISSN: 1328-5475. [cited 27 Apr 14].

Please email jecoffey@unimelb.edu.au if you have comments or queries related to this post.

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About tasayouth

Blog of the Australian Sociological Association's Youth Thematic Group
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One Response to Naming and shaming of young offenders: implications of changes to ‘youth justice’ policy in Queensland

  1. Daniel Matuzleski says:

    I had the opportunity to watch the debate around the amendments to the youth justice bill. It was interesting to note the language used by the Queensland Government when it described the purpose and intentions of the amendments. There seemed to be a conflict between saving vulnerable youth from pathways to criminality and punishing youth who re-offend, a tension between rehabilitation and punishment. This is reflected in the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (Qld) 2014 where a dual purpose of deterring young people from criminal activity as well as holding those who do offend accountable is identified as the reasons for the amendments. There seems to be a tension between the idea of deterring youth and omitting the notion of detention as a last resort.

    Reading through the explanatory notes to the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (Qld) 2014, I noticed that there is a focus on outcomes for two different people groups. The first is young offenders, as mentioned before there is a claim that the desired outcome for these youth is both rehabilitation and accountability. The second group is the wider community; the desired outcome here is protection from young offenders. The frame of vulnerability is taken off the young person and on the community.

    As I watched the debate I started to see a line drawn between youth who deserve rehabilitation and youth who don’t; multiple offences was described as unworthy behaviour. Issues that may lead to a young person re-offending where not mention in the Government’s argument. Phrases such as “thumbing their noses” were used to describe re-offending behaviour as if it was a rejection of (so called) rehabilitation instead of a continued influence of the issues that lead to the first time offence. Although rehabilitation, for first time offenders, was mentioned I never heard policy regarding what exactly this meant.

    Even the use of boot camps was not clearly defined as either rehabilitative or punishment. According to Carrington, Hutchinson, Richards and Dwyer (2012) the intention of the boot camp is to reduce reoffending behaviour by instilling the young offenders with values of discipline. In regards to the effectiveness of boot camps Carrignton et al (2012) have claimed that the current research shows no evidence of reduction in offending behaviours.

    To boil this down to a fine point the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (Qld) 2014 suggests no further rehabilitation beyond the boot camps, which research has shown to be ineffective, but it does give option for harsher sentences for young people, especially is they are reoffenders. This means that the issues linked to first time offending are not efficiently dealt with and a second offence seen as rejection of rehabilitation. Essentially we are setting vulnerable young people up to fail.

    References
    Carrington. K, Hutchinson. T, Richards. K & Dwyer. A (2012) Submission to the legal affairds and community safety committee: Youth justice (boot camps orders) and other legislation amendment bill 2012. Crime and justice research centre, faculty of law, Queensland University of Technology.
    Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (QLD). Retrieved from
    https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/Bills/54PDF/2014/YouthJusticeOLAB14.pdf

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