The number of Aboriginal children being jailed is soaring at an alarming rate, figures show, as authorities struggle to curb a rising tide of social dysfunction in urban and regional centres.

More than 250 indigenous youth in northwestern NSW have been sentenced to juvenile prison terms during the past five years compared with only 12 non-Aboriginal children, The Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.

Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show the national rate of Aboriginal juvenile incarceration has risen to 31 times the non-indigenous rate, up from 27 times in 2008.

The figures come amid concerns that juvenile jails have become storing houses of Aboriginal children growing up in squalor and despair.

Dubbo police inspector Rod Blackman told the newspaper that many Aboriginal children viewed detention centres as safehouses where they get three meals a day and a roof over their heads.

He said the system wasn't working as there was no deterrent factor and detention centres offered no real prospects of rehabilitation.

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