Small-scale Local Facilities in Victoria: Promoting Positive Outcomes for Justice-involved Young People.

Sanne Oostermeijer

Melbourne University/ Local Time
Research Fellow

Sanne Oostermeijer (PhD, MSc, BSc) is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Mental Health, School of Population and Global Health. She works as a Research Fellow on the Primary Health Network (PHN) Mental Health Reform Lead Site project, which assesses changes to Federal government-funded mental health care delivery.
She has a background in Cognitive Neuropsychology and focused her PhD research on the underlying cognitive and neuropsychological processes of adolescent antisocial behaviors. In the Netherlands (2016-17) she was working on a national evaluation project investigating a radical policy reform in the Dutch juvenile justice system, providing more tailored and local treatment for young offenders. She has led national and international research projects and has worked in close collaboration with health professionals, social workers and young people in custody.
Last year she won the inaugural Victorian Design Challenge together with her partner, architectural graduate Matthew Dwyer, for their proposal ‘Local Time: Promoting resilience in the Juvenile Justice System’. Their project aims to establishing how the design of youth justice facilities can best support positive outcomes for justice-involved young people.
Sanne is passionate about finding local solutions and promoting service integration and person-centred care in both the juvenile justice system and the mental health care system.

Matthew Dwyer

Local Time
Architectural Graduate

Matthew Dwyer is an architectural graduate and design tutor whose work focuses on the ecological and social implications/ possibilities inherent in design work. His graduating project proposed a model to redefine Melbourne’s urban waterways, and his teaching encourages students to seek overlooked possibilities in our cities and its systems. Currently, he is working in an architectural practice in Collingwood,
with complex and technical projects for institutional clients.

The overall ‘tough on crime’ approach in Victoria, promoting a punitive attitude, fails to make our communities safer and is causing an expanding prison system with counterproductive and harmful effects. Excessive use of isolation, separation and lockdowns indicates a real need to develop a more sophisticated approach to the rehabilitation of justice-involved young people.

Typically, juvenile justice centres are large-scale, located a great distance from the young person’s family and community with an emphasis on high-security. As such, these facilities facilitate and maintain social isolation and therefore presuppose the need for reintegration.

Our objective is to achieve a paradigm shift moving away from punishment, towards an evidence-based, person-centred practice. Informed by international research and precedents, we established key design principles and requirements for facilities to actively build on family and community connections, education and employment opportunities and address wellbeing and mental health issues.

We have defined five key principles to inform the design of new justice facilities: Small-scale, local, relational security, therapeutic environment, and destigmatization. Recognizing that the design of justice facilities impacts the way programs and services are delivered in that space, it is discussed how facilities are able to promote more positive outcomes for justice-involved young people and addresses reintegration issues they currently face.

This project offers a new model for the youth justice system and can offer a sustainable alternative to high-security detention for young people. Ultimately, we expect this approach to promote positive outcomes for justice-involved young people and reduce reoffending rates.