9 Aug 2018
THE AGE - Melbourne
By Farrah Tomazin
Rosalinda Martino was taken to hospital after being hit by an inmate at Parkville's youth justice centre last month. But the agency nurse doesn't blame the young offender for her assault - she blames the juvenile detention system.
"We expect that it's a safe place for these children to be, but it's not," she said.
"The violence, the lack of warmth in the place, the sometimes poor relationships with staff - it's no wonder so many of them end up worse."
Miss Martino was called to Parkville to assess the injuries of a teenage boy who had been bashed by two other inmates.
The teen was "completely dazed and disoriented" by the time she arrived, she said. Without warning, he lashed out and hit her on her forehead with such force that she ended up concussed. A group of guards then "jumped all over him" aggressively, she said.
"It was awful. You can't beat 'good' into people.
"Management should be held accountable."
The Justice Department confirmed that an incident took place resulting in a staff member being taken to hospital. But it refused to comment on any of the nurse's claims, or the broader questions of whether proper process was followed.
"Violent behaviour or assaults by young people in custody is absolutely unacceptable and the safety of our staff, young people and the community is of utmost importance," a spokeswoman said.
State government figures show there were 315 "category one" critical incidents in Victoria's youth justice centres between January 2017 and June this year, including 174 assaults or alleged assaults.
But it is rare for any of the details to be made public, particularly by someone who has worked within the system.
However, Miss Martino wants to shine a light on the problems and hopes that others might do the same.
"I just want the assaults to stop."
"I just want the assaults to stop," she said.
The latest incident comes as an Auditor-General's report tabled in Parliament yesterday found the youth detention system lacking in its efforts to rehabilitate teenagers or reduce reoffending.
"Young people in detention have not been receiving the rehabilitation services they are entitled to and that are necessary to meet their needs," the report said.
"As a result, youth detention has not been effectively promoting reduced reoffending."
At any given time in Victoria, there are about 200 young people incarcerated in the youth justice system, which has two centres: one in Parkville, the other in Malmsbury.
Both facilities and their staff have been under strain in recent years, partly due to a series of riots by inmates and the increasingly complex nature of offenders, many of them recidivists.
Part of the government's solution is to build a new "fit for purpose" youth centre at Cherry Creek in Melbourne's west. It will include high, high-to-medium, and low-security units; incentives for good behaviour; 12 mental-health beds; and an orientation unit for new admissions.
Such reforms, according to the Auditor-General's report, "present an important opportunity" to "better meet the needs of young people and contribute to reduced reoffending."
The audit examined the files of 40 young people incarcerated between January 1 and June 30 last year and found that more than half did not have a case plan.
Other problems identified in the audit included inadequate facilities, the fact that youths were not being properly assessed when they arrived to determine what services they needed, and a "focus on security that impairs access to education and health services."
Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos said that the AuditorGeneral's report "confirms what we knew all along - that the Liberals left the youth justice system a total mess by underfunding vital services, such as education, health and rehabilitation, as well as leaving buildings in disrepair."
But opposition spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government was in denial, and that the latest assault was yet another example of a system in crisis.
PHOTO CAPTION - 'It was awful. You can't beat 'good' into people.' - Nurse Rosalinda Martino was hit by a juvenile inmate last week at Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville. Photo by Eddie Jim
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