The proposed “Edmonton jail” for juvenile offenders, which could cost up to $500 million[1] for just 35-40 beds, would do little than more than burn a hole in the pocket of Queensland taxpayers, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has said.

Mr Katter, who agrees additional space must be created to hold serious juvenile offenders, said an expansion of the current detention model into the Cairns region was misguided and dangerous.

Instead he recommended the State Government engage in a radical re-think of its delivery of juvenile detention, and immediately investigate on-country sentencing options that tick off what the KAP calls the trifecta of key sentencing principles: “remote, mandatory and long-term”.

Such a site, built with fit-for-purpose, mining camp-style donga accommodation, could be realised for a fraction of the cost, the Traeger MP said.

“Remote does not mean Edmonton, which is a southern suburb of Cairns: a city plagued by some of the most serious juvenile criminality in the State. It means the backwaters of Kajabbi or the border towns near the Northern Territory, it’s got to be at least 100km from your nearest major city,” Mr Katter said.

“Mandatory means the kids don’t have a choice – we want to see changes enacted through the Youth Justice Act that enable the courts to identify which serious, repeat offenders could and should benefit from long-term removal from the streets and relocation to a remote centre.

“Long-term means a minimum of six months, not these weeks-long, revolving door stints, which are typical of the current system.”

Mr Katter said the trifecta of key sentencing principles formed the basis of the KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy, which the party had pushed for years.

“The status quo involves kids admitting to committing offences just so they can be sent to juvenile detention to avoid the lives they must face at home, often in unhealthy and abusive environments, or in state-ordered residential care[2],” he said.

“This is an indictment on both the environments these kids are coming from as well as the failure of current juvenile detention centres to pose any meaningful form of punishment or deterrence.”


[1] https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/new-youth-prison-confirmed-for-site-near-south-east-queensland-town-20230511-p5d7kn.html

[2] https://www.couriermail.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-qld/boy-sent-to-violent-relative-after-court-finds-residential-care-would-be-worse/news-story/d1eda65ac97ee509883a78fde6556b1e

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