Youth Justice Custody Trends

Published: August 24, 2023

This report examines changes in the size and composition of the youth justice custody population (across residences, community homes, and other placement types) between Hurae 2017 and Āperira 2023.


This analysis was undertaken to provide a reliable source of information that can be used for policy and operational work, and to respond to media and other external requests for information on the size and composition of the youth justice custody population.

Key findings

  • Total daily custody numbers averaged 131 through 2017/18 and 2018/19. However, numbers increased after the upper age was raised in youth justice, reaching 161 in early-March 2020. 

  • Numbers would likely have continued increasing for some time, but the global pandemic then reached our shores.

  • Custody numbers plummeted from 155 to 94 between 22 March and 25 June 2020, and remained suppressed at an average of just 101 over the following 12 months. This was largely driven by operational changes necessitated by pandemic restrictions.

  • As these restrictions eased from mid-2021, daily custody numbers have continued to increase – averaging 164 through April 2023, with a peak of 175 on 2 April 2023. 

  • Contributing to this increase, the total number of remands in custody in the first 10 months of 2022/23 (949) is higher than the total number in any of the 5 previous years.

  • The proportion of rangatahi in youth justice custody who are on remand has increased over time from 74% to 89%. 

  • Contributing to this increase in the remand proportion is a large decrease in the number of rangatahi sentenced to Supervision with Residence. 

  • Māori remain significantly over-represented in youth justice custody, accounting for 81% of all rangatahi in custody each day.

  • Over the period examined, 85% of custody placements were in a youth justice residence, 9% were in community remand homes or specialist youth homes, and 2% were in a variety of other placements. For the remaining 5%, the placement was not recorded in the structured data.