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.
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: -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].
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