Extra food is being given to juveniles shifted to units at an adult prison in the wake the riot at WA’s only detention centre for children after complaints that young offenders were losing weight because meals were “nearly inedible” and insufficient.
Complaints about food are among broad-ranging concerns raised in submissions to an inquiry by the State’s independent prisons watchdog into the circumstances of the January riot and the temporary accommodation being provided for 141 juveniles in two segregated units at Hakea prison.
The submissions also raise concerns about the conditions at Banksia Hill detention centre in the lead up to the riot and allegations that adult prison officers are displaying derogatory and aggressive attitudes to juveniles and youth corrections officers.
A submission by Legal Aid WA said juvenile detainees had complained of receiving less food since the move to Hakea, with one lawyer reporting a 16-year-old had complained he was “hungry all the time”.
The Legal Aid submission said factors including the “hasty” merger of Banksia and Rangeview into the one centre and unreasonable amounts of time in lockdown had contributed to the riot and resulted in a “growing underlying tension which made trouble inevitable”.
The submission also says lawyers had reported instances of adult prison staff speaking in a derogatory way about staff from Banksia Hill, claiming it had been made clear they also had no time for the juvenile detainees.
“It appears that some of the Hakea staff regard the detainees and the Banksia Hill detention centre staff with contempt,” the submission said.
A submission by Murdoch University’s School of Law and SCALES community legal centre said detainees had described food as “nearly inedible” and there were reports by families of visible weight loss by juveniles.
There has also been complaints of intimidation, mental and physical abuse and degrading treatment of the juveniles by prison staff.
The university submission also raises concerns about a lack of access to education, rehabilitation and visits and other conditions which it said contravened international human rights obligations.
A Department of Corrective Services spokesman said the long periods of lock down needed immediately after the move were no longer being imposed and demountable buildings had been set up to provide programs, education, visits and psychological services.
Issues regarding meal sizes had been addressed by providing extra food during the day and re-opening the canteen on a rostered day.
The spokesman said there were procedures for confidential complaints and to date no allegations in relation to young people being held at Hakea had been substantiated.
Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan, who has been directed to conduct an inquiry into the riot, the adequacy of the emergency response to the incident and the temporary accommodation at Hakea, said his report was not likely to be released publicly until August.Professor Morgan said the department needed to be given reasonable time to respond to his findings and there was a statutory requirement that it be provided to State Parliament on an embargoed basis for a month before it was tabled.
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