Used underwear given to children in custody | The Islander

Used underwear was displayed to children detained in a youth justice facility in NSW. In a practice that the prison guard describes as unsanitary and unacceptable.

The used underpants issue was one of several concerns the NSW Inspector of Custodial Services highlighted in a report released Tuesday following the watchdog’s visits to the state’s six juvenile justice centers in 2019.

In the same facility, the Acmena Youth Justice Center in South Grafton, children and teenagers have been detained without mattresses or bedding, which the inspector says may be illegal.

The officers also turned off the water in the end rooms and forced young people to request that the water be turned on so they could flush the toilet. Sometimes officers also removed toilet paper from the rooms.

“Young people have to ask staff for toilet paper, and a member of staff was observed by the inspection team measuring toilet paper to give to a young person in a waiting room,” the report said.

“This treatment of a child is degrading.”

Acmena has a particularly high proportion of Aborigines. At the time of the July 2019 inspection, more than two-thirds of young people were Aboriginal, but it’s not uncommon for 85 percent to be Aboriginal.

The facility also had “visibly dirty and smelly” common rooms where children were locked up when it was “unacceptable” to detain young people for even short periods of time. A shower area was not clean and did not meet an acceptable standard of hygiene.

Although the center is mostly male, young women and girls are sometimes detained in Acmena for short periods of time. The toilet in a girls’ lounge was visible from the officer’s room, the inspector noted, and recommended privacy protection.

The hygiene issues were resolved at the time of a follow-up visit in May 2020, the inspector says, and the center manager gave an instruction on the practice of issuing used underwear to stop when it was tagged with them.

A number of centers had reduced the amount of food available to young people after being instructed by Youth Justice NSW to cut costs, the report said.

At Acmena, the menu was not up to recommended standard for food and nutrition after staff reduced the amount of meat in some meals.

The report also raised concerns about staff performing illegal, routine partial-body searches, unaware that the laws and guidelines for searching for children in facilities had changed.

“Overall, the staff have been very dedicated throughout the inspection process and we have spoken to many people who are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances,” said Fiona Rafter, Inspector of Custodial Services, in a statement.

“However, we have also found a number of centers where employees need additional training. It is important that YJNSW continues to invest in employees and provide ongoing training to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and young people at YJCs.”

Ms. Rafter’s office inspects juvenile justice facilities every three years and investigates the safety and well-being of detained juveniles, as well as the safety and administration of all centers in the state.

Australian Associated Press

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