CODE BLACK: Detention centre at boiling point

 

A pressure cooker of violence is about to explode into a potential riot at a Townsville youth detention centre, according to fed up staff who are scared to come to work.

A Cleveland Youth Detention Centre (CYDC) source told the Townsville Bulletin there were fears among staff there would be another Code Black, a riot, similar to the one seen in 2016.

The source said there was also talk within a group of the more violent offenders inside the centre of taking a female staff member hostage. They said there had been a number of violent incidents recently, with staff and inmates being assaulted daily.

 

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The detention centre source said staff have "had a gutful", almost walking out of work at the weekend because of the lack of punishments the "little thugs" were getting after assaulting prison officers.

On November 14, a staff member was bashed to the point of unconsciousness by a group of boys, who "kicked him in the head" and body.

He was taken to hospital in an ambulance, a practice the source said was unusual, claiming injured staff were usually taken to hospital by colleagues to keep it quiet.

A riot at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: DOMANII CAMERON
A riot at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: DOMANII CAMERON

Former Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer has previously defended these claims, saying on-site health professionals assess the injury and will call an ambulance if needed.

On November 13, another staff member injured his shoulder after trying to pry a detainee off an officer. An ambulance was not called, and a staff member took him to hospital.

"It's terrible. It really is at the moment," the source said.

"There's been plenty of talk there about another Code Black (riot).

"They've been saying they're going to take a female officer hostage, because no one has ever done that before and they want to be the first to do it."

Townsville Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said assaults at the region's correctional centres, including CYDC, had gone up 70 per cent in three years.

Supt Hanlon said police could only act on those incidents reported to them by the centre, or staff members.

"Everyone should feel safe when they go to work," he said.

Cleveland Youth Detention Centre on Old Common Rd, Belgian Gardens.
Cleveland Youth Detention Centre on Old Common Rd, Belgian Gardens.

"If they're the victim of crime and wish to report the matter we will always investigate."

The latest revelations come after multiple assaults towards officers in September, where teenagers left three officers with broken bones.

The violence inside the centre came to a head in 2016, when 20 children climbed on to the roof and protested for 12 hours.

Four guards were injured in the riots, including one who lost an eye.

The source also said staff were so scared that they refused to come to work, and the whole detention centre, except for one unit, was put into lockdown on Sunday because of a lack of staff.

The Youth Justice Department stated there were 200 operational staff working at the centre, which currently held 95 detainees, leaving just 17 beds free.

The source said the violence also extended between the detainees, telling the Bulletin one boy was stabbed with a "shank" last week during a fight.

Police and Emergency services respond to incident at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: Evan Morgan
Police and Emergency services respond to incident at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: Evan Morgan

Another girl was recently bashed by two other detainees when she emerged from her cell.

The girl had previously told staff about her safety concerns, who then advised the centre of the information in the hope it would be followed up.

"They told her she had to come out of her cell. She pleaded to leave her alone, she came out and she was punched, kicked in the head, she was bashed, like she said, she knew," the source said.

The newly appointed Minister for Youth Justice Leanne Linard did not comment on whether a formal review of the centre's operations was needed, and her department instead issued a statement in which a spokeswoman said the assaults on staff were unacceptable, and it was normal for these incidents to be reported to police.

"The safety of staff and young people at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre (CYDC) is paramount," she said.

"Since the publication of the independent Review of Youth Detention Centres in 2016, all 83 recommendations have been implemented."

Originally published as CODE BLACK: Detention centre at boiling point



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