Queensland teenagers 'welcoming' time in youth detention
More time behind bars is often touted as a solution to the youth crime crisis gripping Queensland.
But far from deterring would-be offenders, some teens are actually welcoming time in youth detention.
The state has three youth detention centres, which are home to the worst underage offenders, including serial car thieves, home invaders, violent offenders and killers.
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There are serial car thieves, home invaders, those guilty of violent crimes and even killers.
9News has been told each junior inmate spends up to 13 hours a day in an individual cell furnished with a bed, desk, shower and toilet.
They can pass the time reading, writing or watching their own personal TV.
They get three square meals and daily education.
School classes behind bars and other lessons are all aimed at diverting youths away from a life of crime.
"They're literally told when they can and can't do anything. (It's) heavily structured," youth detention director Michael Drane said.
"The biggest impact on re-offending behaviour is to give them skills to enter a productive life path," Youth Advocacy Centre CEO Katherine Hayes said.
The average age inside is 16 but with the numeracy and literacy levels of an eight-year-old.
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"It's not unusual for them to achieve years of attainment in the space of months, so intensive is that program," Drane said.
There are chores like cleaning but there is no hard labour involved. Instead, there is exercise and recreation.
"Normal adolescents, as you can imagine, need to burn off some energy," Drane said.
"So there might be some touch football games or some basketball games but that's really the extent of it."
However, with a statewide shortage of prison staff, there is often more time alone.
"The centres are not fully staffed on a regular basis," Hayes said.
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"When that happens they go into lockdown and stay in their cells and do not receive education."
Once released, 80 per cent of children are back in the system within 12 months.
"We need to ask some very difficult questions," Professor Tamara Walsh said.
"What is it about a detention centre that is better than life on the outside?
"They have three meals a day, they have their own bed.
"These are things many of them don't have on the outside."
Experts said research has shown access to safe accommodation, health care and education on the outside dramatically reduces instances of repeat offending.
"If we want children to stop committing offences, we need to provide them with their basic needs," Walsh said.
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