Causes and Consequences of Youth Detention

Doolan, Ivan (2013). Causes and Consequences of Youth Detention MPhil Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.107

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Author Doolan, Ivan
Thesis Title Causes and Consequences of Youth Detention
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.107
Publication date 2013-01-01
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Jakob M. Najman
Adrian Cherney
Total pages 100
Language eng
Subjects 1608 Sociology
1602 Criminology
1607 Social Work
Formatted abstract
It is known that Indigenous Australian young people are over-represented at every level of the youth justice and youth detention systems (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP), 2011). Many authors (Cunneen, 2008; Hunter, 2001; Kenny & Lennings, 2007; Smith, 2009) have provided insight into the varied reasons for this phenomenon. This thesis explores some of these factors and highlights other factors that have not, to this time, been studied at any depth.

In the year 2004-2005, young people in Queensland aged 10 – 17 years had committed 46,656 offences (Queensland Police Service, 2006). Of these offences, 7.8% were offences against the person (including homicide [murder]; other homicide; assault; sexual offences; robbery; extortion; kidnapping, abduction and deprivation of liberty; and other offences against the person), 60.8% were offences against property (unlawful entry; arson; other property damage; unlawful use of a motor vehicle; other theft; fraud; and handling stolen goods), and 31.4 % were other offences (drug offences; prostitution offences; liquor [including drunkenness]; and traffic related offences). It is evident that the vast majority of offences are not offences against the person (Queensland Police Service, 2006). A very small proportion of those who commit offences are taken into detention. A high proportion of offences are committed by a specific cohort of young offenders. They are likely to constitute a group of more serious and/or repeat offenders (Prichard & Payne, 2005b). Yet, little is known about the factors that predict offending for these young people or the outcomes of those young people who enter a youth detention centre.

There is scant evidence regarding the proportion of Indigenous young people experiencing mental illness who enter youth detention centres in Queensland. Nor is there evidence exploring the many reasons hypothesised within the literature, particularly in regard to socio-economic status and childhood maltreatment. Lastly, there is little evidence regarding whether there are differences in the rate of access (i.e. referral and treatment) to services available within youth detention centres between Indigenous Australian and non-Indigenous Australian young people. This thesis seeks to add to the evidence base in these three (3) important areas.

Three different data sets, one each from the Mental Health Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Service, the Mater University Study of Pregnancy, and the Queensland Injecting Drugs Survey are analysed to add to the evidence base. In each of these data sets we have information about the health and offending behaviour of youth in detention.

Results showed Indigenous young people in the youth detention system were far less likely to be diagnosed with any mental health condition than are non-Indigenous young people while, conversely, Indigenous young people are far more likely to be diagnosed with a drug and alcohol disorder. Socio-economic status and substantiated childhood maltreatment made a contribution to the over-representation of Indigenous Australian young people within the youth justice and youth detention systems but neither, alone nor together, explain more than a small percentage of the disparity in rates of Indigenous youth detention. Further, a lack of culturally appropriate and accessible treatment may be a factor in limiting the treatment-seeking behaviour of Indigenous Australian young people in detention and exacerbate their over-representation in youth detention in Queensland.

Recommendations are made to provide Indigenous specific services to better assess the mental health of Indigenous Australian young people entering youth detention centres. Additionally, recommendations are made for existing services to remove barriers to access for Indigenous Australian youth to facilitate their access to mental health and substance use interventions. 
Keyword Indigenous Australian
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Youth Justice
Treatment-Seeking Behaviour
Mental Health
Substance Use
Youth Detention
Child Maltreatment
Social Disadvantage

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Created: Mon, 02 Jun 2014, 19:41:02 EST by Ivan Doolan on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service