10 September, 2018
Mark Buttler and James Dowling
THE ADVERTISER - SOUTH AUSTRALIA
WORKERS at the state's youth jails are being bashed at a rate higher than staff at adult maximum-security prisons.Dozens of staff have been assaulted and more than 100 detainees attacked this year at the troubled Parkville Youth Justice Centre.
Figures obtained by the Herald Sun show 30 workers were assaulted by children in the year to August.A new staff member was recently bashed by an inmate detained in connection with a murder. That inmate has been involved in other violent attacks within the system.
There have been 115 episodes of teen-on-teen assaults recorded in the same period.Many of those involved a victim being bashed by multiple assailants. Targets are often vulnerable inmates who have no chance against gang-linked offenders.
"It's always the weakest who are singled out," a source said.
Corrections Victoria sources said the use of restraint and isolation measures against inmates had been severely curtailed in recent years, leaving staff less able to control teens.
Staff say management are more worried about adverse findings from the children's welfare watchdog than controlling unruly inmates.
"They have the child services commissioner on them about hygiene," a source said.
The source said inmates knew assaults usually would not mean more time in prison.The Herald Sun has been told a special police taskforce is also investigating at least one sex assault at Parkville, in which a teenage boy was bound and gagged by another.
The Office of Public Prosecutions asked police to investigate after receiving a brief of evidence about the sex assault earlier this year. Three youth justice workers were stood down after the attack.
A Parliamentary committee last year heard of the extent of staff turnover in juvenile justice.
Evidence was given that, at one stage, only eight out of 50 new staff hired stayed longer than one year in the job. At another point, 30 from a recruitment pool of 50 left before finishing induction training.
The Community and Public Sector Union stated that 70 per cent of employees had been in juvenile justice for less than six months at the time of its submission.Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said the previous Coalition government had created a mess in youth justice and that reporting criteria had been tightened so many more incidents were captured in official data.
"The Liberals stuffed up youth justice that's a fact," Ms Mikakos said.
"Rather than investing in the system, their first act in Government was to change the reporting system so that serious incidents were covered up and not publicly available."
Opposition families and children spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said it was time for the government to take responsibility and stop blaming previous administrations.
"It is truly terrible what's going on there. Victorians deserve to know what's going on."
A department spokesman said the safety of youth justice staff was treated with the ¬utmost seriousness."We take a zero-tolerance approach to violence or assaults in youth justice facilities, and reporting serious incidents helps to maintain security and ensure the safety of staff and young people," the spokesman said.
He said all assault allegations were immediately reported to police.
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