The State Government has ordered an inquiry into the Banksia Hill Detention Centre riot.

More than 70 juvenile offenders have been moved to an adult prison after at least 90 cells at Banksia Hill Detention Centre were damaged during a riot involving 60 inmates at the centre last night.

Corrective Services Minister Murray Cowper said today he had directed the Inspector of Custodial Services, Neil Morgan, to undertake a full inquiry into the incident.

“We will ensure the perpetrators of this incident face the full extent of the law,” Mr Cowper said.

"The Liberal National Government has spent $27million upgrading Banksia Hill detention centre.

“The facility has a mix of serious, repeat, and often violent, young offenders and the safety of our correctional officers and the community at large is the Government’s primary focus.

“Importantly we will ensure that any issues raised by the Inspector's independent inquiry are addressed as a matter of priority.”

More than 100 police officers, the police helicopter, the dog squad and fire crews were called to the Canning Vale detention centre after the riot broke out about 6.30pm to help control the situation.

Corrective Services commissioner Ian Johnson told ABC radio this morning that three inmates climbed onto the centre’s roof before they were locked down for the night and the situation escalated, with other detainees joining them.

Up to 20 managed to climb onto the roof of the centre.

The department’s emergency response group was called in to assist.

Mr Johnson said about 60 detainees, some of them armed with “makeshift weapons”, were running amok within the centre at one stage.

He said he had no information at this stage that detainees had managed to gain access to keys, but the security of some cells had been compromised.

“There is a concern that the people on the roof and others who joined them were then able to compromise other cells and release other detainees,” Mr Johnson told ABC radio.

“This is a very serious issue for us. It has been a terrible night.

“To actually get the 61 under control within the hours that they did was a fantastic effort.”

Mr Johnson said the incident would be subject to a police investigation and he expected those who damaged the centre would be charged.

CPSU/CSA branch secretary Toni Walkington said information she had received from centre staff suggested three male detainees had absconded, run off and then broke windows and released other detainees.

Ms Walkington said police and prison staff did not regain control of the centre for three to four hours.

“Eventually there were 60 plus detainees loose around the centre,” Ms Walkington said.

Ms Walkington said budget cuts, staff shortages and cuts to programs had created a recipe for disaster, and that was what unfolded last night.

“There are gaps in the rosters and our members are doing far too many shifts too often, working back-on-back shifts at times,” she said.

“It’s just ridiculous.”

The Department of Corrective Services this morning confirmed 73 juveniles had been moved to Hakea Prison.

They are being held separate to adult prisoners at the Canning Vale prison, which holds minimum to maximum security prisoners.

In a statement, the department said a small number of inmates climbed onto the roof of the centre.

“It is unknown at this stage what sparked the disturbance, which began at around 6pm when three detainees accessed the roof of one of the centre buildings,” the statement said.

“Other detainees damaged cells and other infrastructure.

“One detainee received a cut to his leg. He has been treated and returned to custody.”

The department said a full assessment of damage to the centre would be carried out today, with contingency plans for the long-term management of the centre to be made afterwards.

There are 206 inmates in Banksia Hill Detention Centre, which is WA’s only detention centre for male and female offenders aged 10 to 17 years old.

Former inspector of custodial services Richard Harding told ABC radio Mr Johnson’s explanation of the situation was simplistic.

“The first thing that I think of is the whole situation has become dysfunctional,” Professor Harding said.

“The staff themselves must be demoralised or under resourced in significant ways.

“They will not have received appropriate support from the department.

“They will be aware that they are trying to manage juveniles in a situation that is inappropriate because of the reduction in education programs and training programs and so on.”

Mr Harding said most people who worked in the juvenile justice system cared about trying to get young people out of the system, but staff at Banksia Hill knew they were not able to do that because of inappropriate policies, under resourcing and “thoughtless new ideas” like putting remand and convicted juveniles together.

WA Prison Officers Union secretary John Welch said the juveniles being moved to Hakea Prison had created an “extremely difficult” situation for the adult prison’s staff to manage.

“It is a fairly overcrowded prison,” Mr Welch said.

“We’ve now got this pressure cooker at Hakea where we’ve got over 900 prisoners, some of them are juveniles, we have to have extra staff to try and manage that, we are short of staff as it is.

“It makes for a very, very difficult situation.”

The West Australian

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