TASMANIA'S acting Children's Commissioner has stopped short of recommending the Ashley Youth Detention Centre be closed, despite it costing $10 million a year to lock up an average of just 21 people.
Acting Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Daly yesterday released a report into Alternatives to Secure Youth Detention recommending greater investment in supporting at-risk children before they enter the detention system.
Ms Daly said Ashley takes up a disproportionately high percentage of the $14 million youth budget.
``[This is] despite the lack of evidence to suggest it is effective in deterring young offenders or that it promotes and facilitates reintegration into the community upon release,'' Ms Daly said.
However, she said there would always be a need for some secure juvenile facility as a last resort.
She called for an investigation of using small residential facilities to provide community-based, moderate care and secure care programs, a model similar to one that operates in the US.
She has also recommended an expansion of the Youth Court, which only operates in Hobart, and the introduction of a bail support program.
The report will form part of the health department's broader review into the youth justice system, which is due to present its findings by the end of the year.
Children's Minister Michelle O'Byrne agreed spending the bulk of the youth justice budget on running Ashley was not ideal.
``You can't close Ashley without having some kind a secure facility because there are a group of young people from whom society has the right to have some level of protection,'' Ms O'Byrne said.
``The reality is that a lot of the young people in there could be more appropriately put into different programs.''
Save the Children runs an intensive transition program for young people on bail and Ashley detainees preparing for release.
Program manager Lisa Cuatt said the two programs had proved very successful in reducing recidivism and re-engaging young people in work or education.
However, funding restricts the organisation to working with children from Hobart.
Ms Cuatt estimated about $1 million would be needed to expand the programs statewide.