Meander Valley Gazette

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$7.2m for underused Ashley

NewsJoanne EisemannComment

July 2018 | Sharon Webb

THE STATE Government has allocated $7.2m in its recent budget to refurbish Ashley Youth Detention Centre (AYDC), saying the decision will protect 60 jobs in the Deloraine area.

But those job numbers look to decrease because the detention of young Tasmanians is decreasing dramatically.

According to the government’s Custodial Youth Justice Options Paper by Noetic Solutions Pty Ltd, between 2008-2009 and 2014-2015 the total number of youth offenders in Tasmania declined by 47 percent.

While Ashley currently has a 51-bed capacity, in 2014-15 an average of only 10 offenders were in detention – five on remand and five sentenced.

The Noetic report predicts that by 2020 only six young people will be in detention.

The Minister for Human Services Roger Jaensch said $7.2m is allocated for a major redesign and upgrade of the facility “to make it fit for $7.2m for underused Ashley purpose, continuing to improve the model of care as part of a modern, integrated state-wide therapeutic youth justice model.”

The budget allocation follows the government’s decision to continue with a single youth detention centre near Deloraine.

Noetic’s preferred option was to construct two 12-bed, purpose-built detention facilities in Hobart and Launceston, but the government decided on a $7.2m major redesign and upgrade of Ashley – even though Noetic was clear that “the facility should be located in either Hobart or Launceston and not Deloraine to ensure the custodial model is designed to meet the needs of young people in detention.”

Mr Jaensch said the decision to keep the detention centre open only on its current site would protect jobs in the Deloraine community.

“In making this decision, we have sought to balance the needs of youth offenders with the importance of the AYDC facility and its 60 jobs to the Deloraine community,” he said.

Yet the Noetic report makes it clear that, for Ashley detainees, keeping only one centre is not ideal because Deloraine is “geographically isolated” in terms of optimising government services and off‡enders’ access to family support.

Noetic maintains that two new facilities would provide an opportunity to change the way Tasmania deals with young offenders: “AYDC does not provide appropriate connections for young people to their family, community and support services.

“Throughcare is at best difficult and in most cases ine‡ffective. The distance from residents’ communities means building and maintaining connections with key services is not currently possible.

“(Staff) recruitment can be challenging given AYDC’s remote location.”

sharonwebb@meandervalleygazette.com