State Government to overhaul troubled juvenile justice system – Sunday Telegraph 27/10/2019
The days of young offenders running amok inside the state’s juvenile centres are numbered with the State Government this week to announce a major overhaul of the troubled juvenile justice system. Linda Silmalis has the exclusive.
An elite squad of “riot officers’ and a new classification for extremely violent young offenders are among a raft of sweeping changes to overhaul the state’s troubled juvenile justice system.
Three months after 20 juveniles armed themselves with gardening tools in a bloody 21-hour riot at the Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre, it can be revealed the state government will unveil its multimillion-dollar reform pack this week.
Dubbed one of the most significant overhauls of the system in decades, the proposed reforms will address the key recommendations made by former police assistant commissioner Lee Shearer, who conducted an independent review of the centre and the broader system.
It is understood the Shearer Report contains more than 60 recommendations, which cover security, officer training and the classification system.
Some of these include a new high risk classification of problem inmate as well as enlisting an on-call squad of Corrective Services NSW officers — called the State Operations Group — on call to respond to riots.
After the bloody Frank Baxter riot, teenagers will no longer be able to access chainsaws and hedge-trimmers, with gardening sheds to be relocated.
Public Service Association representatives — who are understood to be meeting with Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward early this week — have been anxiously waiting for the recommendations to be implemented.
Sources close to the negotiations confirmed talks had been underway on an upgrade of Cobham Youth Justice Centres into “Supermax-style” facilities for the most violent teens in the system.
The upgraded facility would cater for the most high-risk inmates, with those of lesser classifications moved to other centres.
A security upgrade of Frank Baxter is also expected, with climbing points at all centres to be addressed.
The union also wants “therapeutic support units” to be established at all the key centres to allow misbehaving juveniles to be taken out of the system and into a facility where they can receive more focused rehabilitation.
Other talks have involved requiring juvenile justice officers to wear formal uniforms and building extra walls within Frank Baxter to make it easier for officers to control inmates.
It is also expected the government will retain the recently activated program of sending unruly inmates who turn 18 to adult prison.
A union source said a new high-risk classification scheme would allow for inmates to be better managed, but only if they were able to be restricted to a separate facility.
“They need to upgrade Cobham, or Baxter or both,” the source said.
“The problem all along has been not being able to separate the really bad kids.”
Violence within the system have declined since the Frank Baxter riot, with one juvenile who climbed on to the roof at the Orana Youth Justice Centre a few weeks ago being among the handful of incidents.
Mr Ward would not comment on the proposals but confirmed the response to the report would be “strong”.
A spokesman for Mr Ward said the safety and security of staff and detainees was a priority.
“The Government is carefully considering Lee Shearer’s report and will announce a comprehensive response shortly,” he said.