Youth crime attack
Joe Francis

A youth justice board of senior government chiefs, business leaders and community members is being set up in a bid to stop children breaking the law and get rid of the "silos" between the agencies providing services to young offenders.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis spoke about the plan yesterday, a year after a riot at WA's only detention centre for juveniles forced an emergency transfer of young offenders to temporary units at an adult jail.

The department revealed yesterday that the cost of repairs and changes after the riot had risen to almost $6.6 million from the previously reported more than $3 million. It is understood this included extra money for air- conditioning in common rooms.

Mr Francis said the board model was the preferred approach of Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon, who will be chairman of the new body.

He said the board was similar to a British model and the youth justice commission which had been recommended by the independent prisons' watchdog after the riot on January 20 last year.

But it does not go as far as Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan's call for the Government to set up a stand-alone youth justice department.

"We want to stop kids from breaking the law in the first place," Mr Francis said. "We want to get value for money for taxpayers. It will look for corporate investment opportunities.

"We have done the same thing the same way for decades and complain about getting the same results. We need to act."

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia queried the decision for a board, saying it was less likely to have the same independence as a commission.

"The biggest challenge this board will have is what the Barnett Government has done to juvenile detention - they have completely compromised juvenile detention," Mr Papalia said, referring to the closure of WA's second centre for juveniles. Toni Walkington, branch secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union which represents youth custody officers, renewed calls for a second centre.

Mr Francis said staff had been boosted from 201 to 235, one of the highest ratios of staff to juveniles in years, since a recruitment drive after the riot and to address a shortage caused by workers compensation claims. The department said there were still 52 such claims.

There had been two cases of cell damage, three of youths going on to the roof and three assaults on staff since juveniles returned to Banksia Hill in September.

The West Australian

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