And now it’s the ‘juvenile jail fail’
FRUSTRATED police say they are babysitting children in packed watch houses because the State Government failed to plan for new laws treating 17-year-olds as juveniles.
Queensland's juvenile detention centres are near capacity and extra police are doing daily overtime shifts to care for the influx of children sitting in watch houses.
Police were given $65,000 to help pay additional costs in just two months last year by the Department of Child Safety. Its own staff are also being sent in to help.
Brisbane's watch house was at its capacity of 91 people - 53 of them juveniles - during a snapshot taken last week by frustrated officers. Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the situation was a "juvenile jail fail".
"Police have had enough. We are not babysitters for juvenile offenders," he said.
"These juveniles belong behind bars, not on bail, because they are accused of very serious crimes such as rape, murder and grievous bodily harm.
"However, that place is not in a police watch house. It is in a juvenile detention centre.
"We saw the 'rail fail', this is the 'juvenile jail fail'," he said.
Police have replaced equipment at Sandgate watch house so it can operate 24 hours a day to house extra adults if required because of the juvenile overcrowding issue.
Child Safety and Youth Minister Di Farmer said youths remained in watch houses only as long as required until either released on bail or transferred to a detention centre.
But police said in the past children were normally only in watch houses if arrested after midnight or immediately before a court appearance.
Officers say children are staying much longer in watch houses because juvenile detention centres were full.
A police officer said staff were trying to transfer out of the Brisbane watch house and were stressed because there was not enough resources.
"The flow-on effect is huge," the officer said. "It's all on police."
Ms Farmer said a safety and security upgrade was underway at Brisbane's youth detention centre which may limit capacity in the short term.
She said there would be a 16 bed upgrade to Brisbane and a 12 bed upgrade to the centre in Townsville.
The government has committed an extra $200 million to transition 17-year-olds from adult to youth justice for infrastructure and other initiatives.
Mr Leavers said it was ridiculous there would be an increase of 28 cells.
"We actually need closer to 128 more cells," he said.
"Clearly absolutely no planning or modelling was undertaken by the Minister prior to increasing the age of a juvenile from 17 to 18."