NT youth detainees test positive for COVID

·3-min read

The pandemic has reached a Northern Territory youth detention centre, with four inmates at an Alice Springs prison diagnosed with COVID-19.

Territory Families, Housing and Communities has provided few details about the infected youths, who tested positive earlier in the week.

It says the four, who are either being held on remand or have been sentenced to custody, are not symptomatic and are medically isolated to avoid spreading the virus to other prisoners.

"A doctor attends the (facility) morning (and) afternoon each day to assess and monitor the health of the young people," a spokeswoman said in a statement provided to AAP on Friday.

The positive cases have led to the correctional centre suspending the intake of detainees.

"In line with COVID management plans, young people are being transferred to Don Dale Youth Detention Centre (near Darwin)," the spokeswoman said.

Three youths were moved to the controversial Don Dale facility on Thursday.

"There are currently no plans to relocate any further young people currently at (the Alice Springs facility) out of the centre, as they are being appropriately cared for," the spokeswoman said.

Darwin lawyer and member of the Close Don Dale Movement John B Lawrence said the territory's juvenile justice system is in disarray.

"Don Dale currently holds its highest numbers ever," he told AAP.

Among them, Mr Lawrence is representing a "traumatised and damaged 11-year-old Indigenous boy on remand in the former men's prison".

"The COVID-effect on staffing means he is kept in his cell almost 24 hours a day, seven days week in lockdown," he said.

"On top of that, we now learn the virus is circulating in the Alice Springs facility.'

Territory Families said it has a comprehensive infection control and response plan for Don Dale and the Alice Springs detention centres.

This includes quarantining and testing new arrivals before they are permitted to join the general prison population.

Routine COVID-19 testing is conducted twice-weekly.

The Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre is located within the Alice Springs Correctional Precinct, 25km from the central Australian city.

The centre houses male and female detainees from Alice Springs and the surrounding regions.

On Thursday there were 15 inmates at the facility.

Youth Justice Officers and case management staff are responsible for the day-to-day care of young people accommodated in the centre.

The NT government has previously accepted recommendations from the NT juvenile justice royal commission to shut down and replace Don Dale.

There are currently about 30 to 40 children and youths detained there.

The territory's Children's Commissioner released a report in December slamming conditions in the NT's youth detention centres.

Increased prisoner numbers and staff shortages impacted the ability to provide basic services to inmates, Commissioner Sally Sievers found.

Some inmates were locked in their cells for more than 23 hours and 45 minutes a day and denied adequate access to education and medical services.

The NT government has previously told AAP it is working to reform the territory's youth justice system and significant progress had been made to implement 218 recommendations.

Work on a new Darwin youth detention centre is underway and the Alice Springs facility is being refurbished.

Experts have recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility in the NT from 10 to 14. The NT government supports this in principle to age 12.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting