83 Aboriginal children remain in a Perth adult prison after an alleged January 31 riot at Banksia Juvenile Detention Centre. Last week the Children’s Court president Judge Denis Reynolds said that the harsh conditions imposed on the children by being held in adult prison should be taken into account when sentencing.
During a decision handed down in the Perth Children’s Court Judge Reynolds said that children having to be detained in an adult prison could be a breach of the Young Offenders Act.
The children are in two segregated units at Hakea Prison.
An inquiry is being held at this time as to what brought about the alleged riot at Banksia Prison on as a number of allegations have flown thick and fast at prison guards and at the juveniles.
Judge Reynolds called for submissions from defence lawyers, prosecutors and the Department of Corrective Services (DCS) as to whether the detainment of the three of the juveniles brought before him should be taken into account in reference to sentencing.
“If evidence shows the picture painted by the young offenders in these cases of lockdowns, the use of restraints, of strip searches and the absence or lack of programs is true, then that would mean that children in detention in this State are being treated more severely than adults, “ said Judge Reynolds.
“That would constitute a breach of the principle in (a section of the Young Offenders Act),” he said.
“I do not think Units 11 and 12 could be properly said to be a facility suitable for young persons as required by (the Act).”
“The fact that young detainees are being held in units constructed for adults and located in adult prison, Hakea Prison, is enough by itself to constitute harshness.”
It is known that that there had been during the detainment of juveniles at Hakea two weeks of lock-downs, increased strip searches, inadequate access to education, rehabilitation programs and outdoor recreation.
Recently advocates and family members of the juveniles said that there had been inadequate provision of food and healthy nutrition and that the juveniles were losing weight.
The three juveniles before Justice Reynolds had been found guilty of burglary offences.
Family members and advocate and law student Marianne Mackay have been holding vigils outside of Hakea Prison and have been joined on several occasions by human rights lawyer, George Newhouse.
“Our youth, our children should not be in an adult jail. Why is it always Aboriginal people who get treated like this? Where is the mainstream media on this? Most of them are being detained for nothing offences, at best disorderly stuff, and therefore they are no harm to anyone,” said Ms Mackay.
Mr Newhouse and Ms Mackay claimed that the adult prisoners were coming into contact with the children. The DCS denied the children in Hakea Prison are coming into contact with adult prisoners.
“Let me be very clear about that – they are not coming into contact with swarms of adults, but there are cleaning staff and cooking staff who are adult prisoners,” said Mr Newhouse.
Ms Mackay said that some of the juveniles had said the adult prisoners had made sexually oriented gestures to them. She also said that some of the prison guards were “running them down, calling them names, treating them like rabid dogs.”