Commissioner’s report reveals unacceptable levels of isolation and lockdowns in Victorian youth justice centres

March 23, 2017 |

Smart Justice for Young People is alarmed by the findings of an investigation into the use of isolation, separation and lockdowns in Victoria’s youth justice centres. Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, tabled the Commission’s final report in Parliament today.

The Same Four Walls finds that extensive and ineffective use of restrictive practices is stifling the rehabilitation of young people in custody and creating dangerous conditions in Parkville, Malmsbury and the Grevillea Unit at Barwon Prison.

Excessive isolations and ‘separation plans’ have seen young people confined for extensive periods of time in often grossly unsanitary facilities. In some cases, mandatory access to education programs, visitors and personal belongings was denied.

Over 500 ‘whole prison’ lockdowns occurred in the 18-month period of investigation, most of which were attributed to staff shortages rather than behaviour issues among young people in custody. On more than 50 occasions, young people were held in continuous lockdown for over 36 hours.

Given most children and young people in the youth justice system have histories of trauma and disadvantage, SJ4YP shares the Commission’s concern that such cruel and inconsistent regimes risk compounding the underlying causes of their offending.

While the report’s findings are highly distressing, there is an opportunity for the Victorian Government to rectify these problems as it transfers responsibility of the youth justice system to the Department of Justice and Regulation.

SJ4YP calls on the Government to urgently implement the Commissioner’s recommendations, and believes it should be a matter of priority to:

  • Immediately transfer children out of Barwon Prison, where conditions are manifestly unfit to respond to the unique needs of young people
  • Address staff shortages through effective recruitment and training strategies that support trauma-informed rehabilitation,
  • Ensure lockdowns and isolations are used as a last resort only, and
  • Prioritise age-appropriate programs, services and facilities in its plans for a new youth justice facility.

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