AUSTRALIA: Juvenile inmates 'being singled out for harsher treatment' after riot

Summary: Solicitor claims several of her clients, temporarily being housed at Hakea adult prison, are being held under tough conditions.


[26 August 2013] - 

A number of juvenile inmates temporarily housed at Hakea adult prison in Western Australia are being singled out for harsher treatment because of their involvement in a January riot that saw their former detention centre partially destroyed, a solicitor representing a number of the children has claimed.

Anna Copeland, director of clinical legal programmes at Murdoch university in WA, claimed that a number of her clients - whom she visits regularly at Hakea - had been “singled out” for harsher conditions, including being shackled by their ankles and wrists when being transferred between Hakea and Banksia Hill, the centre where the riot occurred on 20 January, for court appearances.

She said two of her clients, who have been convicted for their involvement in the riots, were placed on “longer periods of lockdowns” when they were sent back to Banksia Hill for court appearances on a live video link-up. This meant they could not take part in activities with other boys while they were there. She added that she understood that the same treatment was being handed down to other boys in the centre who had also been charged with rioting.

She said that treating those who had rioted on 20 January differently to other detainees amounted to “continuing to punish them for what’s happened”.

“It seems to us there is a pervasive attitude of continuing to punish these young men, even though the proper processes through court have been dealt with, and their punishments given. Our question is: how much longer are the department for corrective services going to continue to punish them?”

The Western Australian department for corrective services said it had not received any “formal allegations from detainees alleging youth custodial services staff have targeted young people involved in the riot incident”.

Copeland said that she would be writing to the department.

Earlier in August the Inspector of Custodial Services, Neil Morgan,published a report examining the riots, which concluded that the event was “entirely predictable”. Referring to the staff shortages and rolling lockdowns that preceded the riot, Morgan said: "Idle, bored children will invariably become frustrated and are very likely to act out their frustrations.”

The allegations came on the same day that the department failed to meet its fourth deadline to transfer the child detainees housed in Hakea permanently back to facilities at Banksia Hill, with 107 juveniles, the majority of whom are Indigenous, remaining at the prison.

The department for corrective services said that a “return plan” had been implemented on 19 August but said that construction works aimed at making the site more secure had “been impacted by inclement weather and difficulties in sourcing steel in WA”.

A “phased return” of juvenile inmates from Hakea is due to take place in the “coming weeks”, with the department adding that the continued accommodation of juveniles at Hakea was “not ideal”.

Rodney Dillon, Amnesty International’s Indigenous rights campaigner, expressed frustration at the continued delays in returning the juveniles to Banksia.

“Amnesty International is calling on the minister to commit to a date for having all the young people removed from the adult jail and given the rehabilitation and education programs they need in the appropriate juvenile centre,” he said.

“It is particularly concerning that in the lead up to the riots at Banksia Hill, young people were being locked in their cells for as long as 23 hours a day and that remains an issue for the juveniles still in the adult jail.

“We would like to see the state with the worst record for jailing people, especially Aboriginal people, to commit to diversionary programs and education, rather than the tough justice that has seen kids and young people condemned to their cells in crowded and ill equipped facilities.”










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