The Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania is calling on the respective state governments to focus the youth justice system on prevention and rehabilitation rather than retribution and imprisonment.
Presenting the proposal to Synod 2017 Justice and International Mission unit director Mark Zirnsak said that Victoria especially was moving towards harsher penalties and jailing more young people.
This was a model that had been a proven failure in the US and had only succeeded in driving up reoffending.
Dr Zirnsak said some Western Europe countries had an alternative approach that focussed on small facilities and well-trained staff to help young people turn their lives around.
As a result there were almost no incidents of violence by young people against each other or staff. These findings are in direct contrast to the situation in Victorian correction facilities, where incidents of violence are a daily occurrence, so much so a recent report recommended the use of riot gear and tear gas.
Questions from the floor were concerned with the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Pacific Islander youth in the justice system and whether this had was something had been adequately addressed.
Dr Zirnsak said that the proposal did not mention Indigenous youth specifically but in the ecumenical and committee work that the Church does Indigenous advocacy and awareness is prominent.
He said he would look more into the issue of Pacific Islander youth.
The proposal was adopted by consensus.