Teen killers not getting right rehabilitation, whistleblower warns
by: SEAN FEWSTER
From: The Advertiser
July 11, 2013 11:18PMIncrease Text Size
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EIGHT teenage killers in the state’s youth justice system are at risk of reoffending, drug use and greater violence because of a lack of mental health resources, an expert has warned.
A doctor has told The Advertiser the killers of Pirjo Kemppainen , Anne Redman , Daniel Awak and Akol “Alex” Akok may not receive adequate treatment before they are transferred to adult jails.
The warning comes after a Supreme Court jury deliberated for 90 minutes today before acquitting a second 17-year-old of Ms Kemppainen’s 2010 murder .
The doctor, who asked not to be named, said there were just five mental health specialists treating almost 500 detained youths in SA, including the eight killers.
He said that, even with the support of social workers, that number was inadequate to deal with the killers’ psychological issues before they turned 18 and were moved to the Yatala and Port Augusta prisons.
ADC Teen killers graphic .
“If they remain untreated, these youths will use their notoriety as currency in the adult prisons, and people who are bad influences will gravitate toward them,” he said.
“Those bad influences increase the chances of the youths resisting further treatment and education (so) they will be released in their thirties without skills and with mental health problems.
“They might not go back to murdering people, but they will turn to other forms of violent crime and drug abuse … this is a major problem that needs to be addressed.”
Federal Government statistics, released in April, show there are 441 youths in detention in SA on an average day. Of those, eight have been convicted of murder.
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In September 2010, a 14-year-old boy was ordered to serve a six-year minimum term for fatally stabbing schoolboy Daniel Awak, 14, in the chest in November 2008.
The Supreme Court heard he had the “cognitive abilities of an eight-year-old” and suffered severe emotional and intellectual problems.
That boy is due for release next year and, despite having turned 18, remains in youth detention due to his health issues.
In November 2011, four youths who stabbed and bashed Sudanese immigrant Akol “Alex” Akok until they were soaked with blood received minimum terms of between five and eight years.
The court heard each of the boys had varying levels of intellectual and emotional issues.
In November last year, two boys who stalked and murdered pensioner Anne Redman with a blunt hunting knife were each jailed for a minimum of 20 years.
Read more on the Anne Redman case here
After their sentencing, Ms Redman’s family said they hoped the duo, now 18, could eventually emerged from prison equipped to become productive members of society.
Despite their age, they also remain in youth detention to access counselling and will transfer to the adult system sometime over the next two years.
This week, the Supreme Court has heard the testimony of a boy known as B, 17, who admitted murdering Pirjo Kemppainen when he was just 14.
He sought to implicate a second boy, known as A, in the crime – but jurors dismissed his evidence and found A not guilty.
More: More on the murder of Akol Akok
The court has previously heard B, who received a discounted 15-year minimum term for giving evidence agains A, has “extremely low” intellectual function and is “spectacularly unable” to problem-solve.
The court was told B, who bashed and stabbed Ms Kemppainen more than 120 times, killed because it “empowered” him.
B will be allowed to remain in the juvenile system until his 20th birthday if he shows adequate signs of rehabilitation by next August, when he turns 18.
The doctor told The Advertiser each of those children needed specialist, one-to-one treatment if they were to rehabilitate.
More: Daniel Awak killer’s pleads guilty
He said psychologists worked to address their risk of reoffending, their emotional needs and their “responsitivity” to treatment.
“These are complex issues, with the added difficulty that you’re trying to address anti-social behaviour within an environment of incarceration,” he said.
“We only have them in our care for a short period of time and they won’t be locked up indefinitely – we need to reduce their risk of offending before they get out.
“This is where all resources should be directed … the government will tell you there’s adequate resources but, in terms of successful mental health outcomes, there should be more done.”
A Department for Communities and Social Inclusion spokesman said resources were adequate.
“Youth justice has a team of forensic psychologists,” he said.
“Priority of access to psychological services is given to young people in accordance with their level of need.”