Last week, six detainees got onto the roof of Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre. They set the roof alight and tried to take keys from officers. Picture: 9 News
Last week, six detainees got onto the roof of Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre. They set the roof alight and tried to take keys from officers. Picture: 9 News

Officers call for ‘high-risk’ unit for violent young offenders

THEY'VE been assaulted and stabbed and had faeces hurled at them by out-of-control teenagers - now juvenile justice officers are demanding a special "high-risk" unit for the state's worst kids.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained a diary of the worst cases of violence and abuse against juvenile justice warders, including one detainee threatening to "cut ya f***ing tongue out it ram it down ya throat".

Guards are also worried teens being held on terror charges are being allowed to influence other children as young as 12.

 

Juvenile justice officers are sick of being assaulted by violent detainees. Picture: Adam Taylor
Juvenile justice officers are sick of being assaulted by violent detainees. Picture: Adam Taylor


In a two-hour stop-work protest last week, officers at all six centres voted to call on the Berejiklian government to "urgently establish a specialist high risk unit" where the "states most violent and at risk young offenders" can be dealt with away from the general inmate population.

On Thursday, the day after the protest, six detainees scaled a building at western Sydney's Cobham centre, staging a 10-hour stand-off with guards.

 

 

Incidents that have happened from May 2018 to January 2019.
Incidents that have happened from May 2018 to January 2019.

 

Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little said conditions were horrific for staff in the centres, who held serious fears about young people being radicalised inside.

"There are young people in there charged with serious terror-related offences who are radicalising other kids," Mr Little said.

"When these kids go to court, (officers) turn up in ski masks and automatic weapons … because of that (those inmates) become celebs in there."

Mr Little said the closure of a high-risk centre in Kariong on the Central Coast in 2015 meant juveniles on terror charges and serious offences now mixed freely with other minors in the juvenile justice system.

"Kariong worked because the violent offenders knew this is what it's going to be like if they go to big jail," he said.

Now, Mr Little said, assault rates in the centres were soaring and staff were paying the price.

"We've seen a trebling of the assaults on our staff. Whenever a staff member gets assaulted, all they do is move them," he said.

"If this was an adult … they would be in Supermax or another high-risk unit.

"They're assaulting our members on a daily basis and we're sick of it."

The Telegraph understands up to 25 staff at the Frank Baxter centre on the Central Coast are currently off work on compensation claims for physical or mental health problems and another nine are off work from other centres.

Mr Little said mistreatment unearthed by a royal commission into the Northern Territory's juvenile justice system may have made the Berejiklian government nervous about a new centre for high-risk youths.

 

A protest was held last week to call on the Berejiklian government to “urgently establish a specialist high risk unit”. Picture: AAPImage/Jeremy Piper
A protest was held last week to call on the Berejiklian government to “urgently establish a specialist high risk unit”. Picture: AAPImage/Jeremy Piper

 

Corrections Minister David Elliott said officers have told him a high risk unit could not have prevented the assault. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Corrections Minister David Elliott said officers have told him a high risk unit could not have prevented the assault. Picture: Nathan Edwards

 

A Juvenile Justice NSW spokesman said the department had not ruled out granting a new high-risk unit but more information was needed.

"Juvenile Justice remains open-minded about the Public Service Association's suggestion of a high-risk unit, however it has not produced detail about how this unit would work in practice," the spokesman said.

"Such a unit would need to be based on clear evidence that it would reduce the risk of violence toward staff and other detainees."

Corrections Minister David Elliot recently hit back at suggestions a high-risk unit was the answer to assaults on staff.

"I have spoken to many youth officers after they have been injured at work … Not one has told me that a high-risk unit could have prevented the assault," Mr Elliott said.



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