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Children as young as 10 can be locked away in prison
Every child should be free to go to school, have a safe home to live in and be supported to learn from their mistakes. But right now, children as young as ten years old can be arrested, held overnight at a police station, and sentenced to grow up in prison.
Most of the children currently being locked up are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – disproportionately so compared to the general population.
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s to follow the medical advice. In this case, medical evidence shows that 14 is the absolute bare minimum a child should be exposed to the criminal justice system.
“At ten years old, the majority of children are still small enough for a car booster seat. They are still losing baby teeth. Their young brains are at a critical stage of development. At 12, many are still in primary school and at 13 they are just starting high school.”–Change the Record
Children under 14 have not yet developed the cognitive maturity to be held criminally responsible. Any exposure to the criminal justice system can cause them lifelong harm and actually reduce community safety.
Community-led solutions which support children with the help they need already exist. It’s time for the Victorian Government to change the laws to keep children safe from prison and lifelong harm, and invest in the solutions that work.
Raising the age to 14 (with no A carveout is an exception to a law.carveouts) would ensure all children are provided with an opportunity to learn and grow, and would keep our communities safer by investing in programs that work.
The alternatives already exist and make our communities safer
Alternatives to prison that help children learn and take responsibility already exist - but governments are spending millions of dollars on prisons instead of funding the solutions that actually work.
If we invest in programs which support children and young people with the help they need, such as mental health, education and mentoring, we’re supporting them to grow up to live happy and fulfilling lives, while also keeping our communities safe.
Our communities are safer when children and young people don’t get sent to prison.