The number of young people in juvenile justice detention is increasing, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Juvenile justice in Australia 2007-08, found that the number of young people in detention on an average day in Australia (except NSW, where data were not available) increased by 17%, from 540 in 2004-05 to 630 in 2007-08.
However, while the number of unsentenced young people in detention (which included young people on remand) on an average day increased over the four years, the number of sentenced young people decreased.
'On an average day in 2004-05, around one-third of those in detention were unsentenced. But by 2007-08, over half were unsentenced,' said Rachel Aalders of the Institute's Child and Youth Welfare Unit.
The decrease in the number of sentenced young people is most likely due to a combination of a decrease in the number of young people received into sentenced detention and a decrease in the length of time spent in sentenced detention.
Young people who were under community-based supervision were more likely to be sentenced than those in detention. Over 90% of those under community-based supervision on an average day in 2007-08 were serving a sentence, compared with just under 50% in detention.
There were nearly 5,000 young people under supervision on an average day in all states and territories except NSW, and most (nearly 90%) were under community-based supervision.
Most of those under supervision were male, with males four times as likely to be under community based supervision on an average day and eight times as likely to be in detention as females.
About 1 out of every 500 young people aged 10-17 were under community-based supervision on an average day and 1 in 3,000 was in detention. One-quarter of young people under supervision during 2007-08 had both community-based supervision and detention.
Indigenous young people were over-represented in community-based supervision and detention.
'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-17 years were nearly 15 times as likely to be under community-based supervision on an average day and nearly 30 times as likely to be in detention as their non-Indigenous counterparts', Ms Aalders said.
Indigenous young people in detention were also more likely to be unsentenced than non-Indigenous young people. Almost 60% of unsentenced detainees were Indigenous, compared with 44% of sentenced detainees.