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Child detention alone won't work, Queensland mayor says

Unless child offenders are put through rehabilitation programs without distractions "nothing's going to work" to break their cycle of reoffending, a far north Queensland mayor says.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill supports state government plans to make breaching bail a crime for children and increasing jail time for offences that are mostly committed by children.

She says "frequent flyers" in the youth justice system know courts will detain them as a last resort. When they're placed in care homes in her city, they quickly reconnect with fellow offenders.

Detaining them will help limit that, the mayor says, but the cycle of reoffending won't be broken unless children have access to effective rehabilitation programs in detention.

"If suddenly you can be detained it also gives you as a government the ability to put these children properly through programs at Cleveland (Youth Detention Centre) and I do know you run some great programs there. Some of you have broken the cycle on some of these kids," she told a parliamentary inquiry into the proposed laws on Thursday.

"But until they're in those programs, if they're sentenced to three months at best nothing's going to work."

The state government has admitted the legislation will limit children's rights, and in effect override the Human Rights Act it passed in 2019.

The proposed laws and the short time given for the community to provide submissions have been widely criticised by legal groups, social service providers and human rights watchdogs.

Much of the criticism centres on potentially making the youth crime problem worse, with evidence cited by the state's human rights commissioner suggesting the pre-trial detention of children triples the chance of them reoffending.

However, the Townsville mayor said the bill should go even further by having mandatory sentences for certain offences and offering alternatives to detention such as remote, military-style accommodation where offenders are banned from accessing social media.

"It also needs to be ensured it is managed properly. Many of these kids come from very tough environments and I would argue ... a structure, a good solid structure around some of these kids could help them understand and value what it's like living in society," Ms Hill told the inquiry, sitting in Townsville on Thursday.

She said under existing arrangements children are put in care homes in the middle of Townsville which "aren't managed very well" by external providers based in Sydney and Melbourne.

"It's more about profit-making rather than about caring for kids," the mayor said.

"If you take them out of the environment they're in you've got an opportunity to educate and support in a framework where they're not being distracted and then ... bringing them back into a place like Townsville, there's all the same distractions, all the same friends, all the same social media."

The inquiry continues.