Jail bars

The following are articles published in the Kimberley Echo from Kununurra in Western Australia’s deep north in 2011. There are three common elements in these pieces: journalist Nathan Dyer, lawyer Glen Dooley and the parlous state of Western Australia’s juvenile detention system at that time.

Boy, 12, in lock-up for nine days. Nathan Dyer – The West Australian on May 28, 2011

A 12-year-old boy spent nine days in isolation at a Kununurra police lockup designed for adult offenders because no responsible adult could be found to care for him.

The State Opposition yesterday called for an immediate independent inquiry.

Shadow Minister for Child Protection Sue Ellery demanded that the Government explain why it took more than nine days to find a responsible adult to care for the boy.

“When was the Minister for Child Protection Robyn McSweeney made aware that a 12-year-old boy was being held in an adult prison,” Ms Ellery said.

“She needs to provide answers why her department was not able to find any safe placement for this child.

“Putting a 12-year-old in solitary confinement for nine days is tantamount to torture,” she said.

The boy, who was charged with burglary offences on April 25 and later released, was remanded in custody by a Justice of the Peace at Kununurra on April 30 after breaching a court-imposed curfew.

He was remanded in custody another two times by a Kununurra magistrate as juvenile justice and Department for Child Protection workers attempted to find a guardian.

He was then flown to a remand centre in Perth on May 7.

The case comes after an incident at Kalgoorlie this month where a 13-year-old boy spent three days in a police lockup.

It comes 18 months after Ms McSweeney, prompted by a series of stories in _The West Australian _in November 2009, promised the Kimberley town a bail hostel to avoid similar incidents.

Aboriginal Legal Service WA’s Kununurra managing solicitor Glen Dooley said it was not an isolated case.

“It’s happening quite a bit,” Mr Dooley said.

He said a bail hostel was needed desperately in the remote town of Kununurra but warned such a facility was only a short-term solution.

He said policies needed to deal with why children were being driven to crime. “We crack down on kids for not sticking to curfews when they are avoiding all sorts of problems at home,” he said.

Department for Child Protection director-general Terry Murphy said the department had initially indentified the boy’s grandmother as a responsible adult but the boy could not be relied on to remain in her custody. He said keeping children in police custody was “considered to be an extreme last resort”.

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Custody case highlights dire need for bail hostel in town. Nathan Dyer – The Kimberley Echo on June 3, 2011

A 12-year-old boy spent nine days in isolation at a Kununurra police lock-up designed for adult offenders because no responsible adult could be found to care for him.

The State Opposition last week called for an immediate independent inquiry into the matter.

Shadow minister for child protection Sue Ellery demanded the Government explain why it took more than nine days to find a responsible adult to care for the boy.

“When was (the Minister for Child Protection Robyn McSweeney) made aware that a 12-year-old boy was being held in an adult prison?” Ms Ellery said. “She needs to provide answers. Putting a 12- year-old in solitary confinement for nine days is tantamount to torture.”

The boy, who was charged with burglary offences on April 25 and later released, was remanded in custody by a Justice of the Peace at Kununurra on April 30 after breaching a court-imposed curfew.

He was remanded in custody another two times by a Kununurra magistrate as juvenile justice and Department for Child Protection workers attempted to find a guardian, before being flown to a Perth remand centre on May 7.

The case comes 18 months after Ms McSweeney, in November 2009, promised the Kimberley town a bail hostel to avoid similar occurrences.

Aboriginal Legal Service WA’s Kununurra managing solicitor Glen Dooley said the incident was not an isolated case.

Mr Dooley said a bail hostel was desperately needed in Kununurra, but warned such a facility was only a short-term solution. He said policies were needed which dealt with why children were being driven to crime.

“We crack down on kids for not sticking to curfews when they are avoiding all sorts of problems at home,” he said.

Department for Child Protection Director General Terry Murphy said the department had initially identified the boy’s grandmother as a responsible adult but the boy could not be relied on to remain in her custody.

Mr Murphy said youth support services were working with the family. He said keeping children in police custody was “considered to be an extreme last resort.”

Minister for Corrective Services Terry Redman said the Government had allocated $1.2 million over three years for non-government group Life Without Barriers to provide youth bail services via the provision of host family accommodation within the Kununurra region. The service was due to begin in July.

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Lawyer wants juvenile centres closed. Nathan Dyer – The Kimberley Echo on October 15, 2011

Perth’s juvenile detention centres are known as “monster factories” where violence is rife and young offenders learn to become more efficient and violent criminals, a senior lawyer claims.

Aboriginal Legal Service East Kimberley managing lawyer Glen Dooley said Perth’s Banksia Hill and Rangeview detention centres concentrated young offenders in an environment which fostered violence, crime and drug use.

He said WA’s juvenile justice system should be radically overhauled and the two detention centres shut down.

“The contamination effect of Rangeview and Banksia Hill is extreme and I honestly think they should be shut down,” he said.

“Effectively what they are, are hugely expensive too-hard baskets. Young Aboriginal kids come back from those places with heads full of serious crime, having been exposed to drugs they would never otherwise have been exposed to, stuff they would never have thought of themselves.”

Mr Dooley said WA’s juvenile facilities did nothing to rehabilitate young offenders.

“A lot of people would say these kids deserve it … but the only thing these kids learn (in those centres) is how to get worse,” he said.

Mr Dooley said the system was skewed towards punishment and funds needed to be redirected to communities where young Aboriginal offenders lived. Corrective Services Minister Terry Redman said the call to shut juvenile detention centres was “nonsense in the extreme”.

Mr Redman said the centres were needed to ensure the safety of the general community by isolating violent offenders.

He rejected claims of excessive violence within the centres.

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