Damning Banksia Hill report prompts call for specialised centres

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Updated

July 18, 2017 08:32:36

Several detention centres need to be established to deal with WA’s juvenile offenders after a report exposed a high occurrence of self-harm at the Banksia Hill facility, a prominent West Australian criminologist says.

The investigation by Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan revealed hundreds of incidents of self-harm by inmates at WA’s only juvenile prison, while also detailing what it says are unprecedented techniques to control behaviour.

It also detailed six suicide attempts since the start of 2016 and was scathing of techniques used to control behaviour, such as restricting food and training the laser sights of shotguns on children.

ECU criminology lecturer and juvenile justice specialist Natalie Gateley said there needed to be one centre in Perth focused on drugs, one on trauma as well as centres in rural areas where children can have family contact where it is beneficial.

“You’ve got 10-year-olds and 18-year-olds,” she said.

“There are different genders, there are drug and alcohol problems, there is family violence and there is loss of parents, so you really need to target and [have] smaller centres.”

Amnesty International in a statement called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene, saying there were an “avalanche of horrors spilling out from youth detention centres around the country” and comparing Banksia Hill to the infamous Don Dale Centre in the Northern Territory.

“[There are] spit hoods, solitary confinement and alleged sexual assault,” the statement said.

“The Special Operations Group using chemical agents and flash bombs, and aiming firearms and shotgun laser sights at children, and soaring rates of self-harm and attempted suicide.

“This is the stuff of nightmares — and it’s all been happening in Banksia.”

No comparison to Don Dale: Francis

Former WA corrective services minister Joe Francis said Banksia Hill could not be compared to Don Dale.

“We don’t use restraint chairs like they did at Don Dale,” he said.

“But how do you stop a kid from doing this [self-harm], short of using restraint chairs?”

The facility currently accommodates young males and females from all over the state who have been sentenced for a crime, or have been arrested and are awaiting a court appearance.

Mr Francis dismissed calls for children in Banksia Hill to be segregated into remand prisoners, and those who have been sentenced, saying that was not done for adults.

Banksia Hill was pretty much a series of little prisons within a prison, and could be managed separately, he said.

“The Government didn’t have buckets of money to go and build a brand new facility,” Mr Francis said.

“We didn’t have it while we were in government and I know the new Labor Government wouldn’t have it either, so it’s about using the resources you’ve got the best you can.”

Mr Francis said decisions about the operation of Banksia Hill were made “before his time”, and managing the centre was one of the most difficult jobs in the corrections portfolio.

The WA Government has been contacted for comment.

Topics:

law-crime-and-justice,

prisons-and-punishment,

government-and-politics,

wa

First posted

July 18, 2017 08:28:27



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