Reform mandates transfer of adults from youth detention to prison

Proposed changes to youth offender laws will mandate the transfer of detainees who have reached the age of 18 from youth detention to adult prison.
  • Young Offenders Amendment Bill 2023 to be introduced to Parliament
  • Changes will require those who reach 18 years of age while in juvenile detention to be transferred to adult prison, unless deemed inappropriate or unnecessary
  • Reform brings WA into line with other jurisdictions and international best practice

Proposed changes to youth offender laws will mandate the transfer of detainees who have reached the age of 18 from youth detention to adult prison.

The McGowan Government is introducing this amendment to the Young Offenders Act 1994 to separate young offenders from adults in custodial settings - in line with contemporary best practice and laws in other Australian States.

Under the Young Offenders Amendment Bill 2023, detainees held in youth detention must be transferred to a prison within 30 days of turning 18 years old.

This would apply to both sentenced offenders and individuals on remand.

In situations where it is not considered appropriate or beneficial to transfer a detainee, the Director General of the Department of Justice will have discretion to allow the individual to remain in a juvenile facility.

It is widely recognised that children and adults in custodial settings should be separated. This will improve the safety and wellbeing of children in detention, and provide a more appropriate rehabilitative environment for adult detainees.

By relocating adults to adult facilities, many detainees will be able to be located closer to home, and receive more fitting vocational training, programs and other age-appropriate rehabilitation.

The placement of these individuals in the custodial estate would be carefully managed to ensure they are accommodated in a safe and suitable location.

Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:

"Our policy is clear - adult and child offenders should not be held together.

"This legislation brings Western Australia into line with laws in other States, and will help to keep children in detention safe.

"It's an important part of our plan to manage issues at Banksia Hill Detention Centre, alongside the more than $100 million we're investing to upgrade the facility, employing more staff roll out and offering additional therapeutic support for young detainees."

Comments attributed to Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston:

"It is widely accepted that children and adults should not be accommodated together in custodial facilities.

"It is just common sense that young people and adults are separated in these environments.

"This is the approach used in most parts of Australia and is consistent with international best practice.

"These reforms will make juvenile facilities safer and provide more positive environments for young detainees, as they engage with education, mental health and rehabilitation services.

"This is a timely reform, as the State Government continues its record $105 million investment to improve services, staffing and facilities at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

"Adult facilities are also much better suited to provide age-appropriate rehabilitation and vocational opportunities for adult detainees.

"With more adult facilities spread around the State, it is anticipated these reforms will enable more of these detainees to be located closer to home or Country.

"Of course, there may be situations where moving detainees to adult facilities will not be appropriate or necessary.

"That's why the Director General of the Department of Justice will retain discretion to allow individual detainees to remain at juvenile facilities, where appropriate."

Premier's office - 6552 5000

Corrective Services Minister's office - 6552 6700