'Urgent' action sought at WA youth prison

Children detained in Western Australia are continuing to self-harm at alarming rates as the state government defends its handling of youth justice issues.

An independent inspector has highlighted ongoing critical incidents among detainees at Unit 18, an isolated wing of the maximum-security Casuarina adult prison.

The unit holds children accused of destructive behaviour at the troubled Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre, where the use of dangerous restraint techniques is under scrutiny.

In his latest annual report, tabled in parliament on Tuesday, Inspector of Custodial Services Eamon Ryan said his office had maintained a weekly presence at Unit 18.

"While there has been some improvements, there has also been a continuation of critical incidents including: self-harm and suicide attempts; staff assaults and significant infrastructure damage," he wrote.

"The cycle cannot continue and something needs to change. I believe a welfare-focused and trauma-informed intervention is urgently required."

Mr Ryan said conditions at Banksia had deteriorated further since his last inspection, when he found children were being held in solitary confinement of breach of their human rights.

He said there appeared to be a "limited focus on the social, emotional and welfare needs of the young people" in the government's response.

Footage aired on the ABC's Four Corners on Monday showed a teenager at Banksia being "folded up".

The technique, which involves officers using their body weight to force a person's arms and legs against their head, is considered to pose a risk of suffocation.

Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday said the practice would be reviewed but insisted Banksia was "working incredibly well".

"There's not constant lockdowns at Banksia Hill. The 85 people who are there currently, it's working incredibly well," he told ABC radio.

"Detainees get to play guitars and music. They get to play football. They get to go to school. All these sorts of things are part of what happens at Banksia Hill now ... because the most violent and disruptive detainees we had to take out."

The premier said there were around 10 boys currently at Unit 18 who would be returned to Banksia next year once infrastructure upgrades were finished.

He rejected calls for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 but said his government would consider lifting it from 10 to 12.

Aboriginal leaders have led calls for an inquiry into Banksia Hill after it emerged detainees were subjected to repeated lockdowns which have been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Children's Court president Hylton Quail last month warned the government was at risk of being found in contempt over its continued use of lockdowns.

Lawyers have raised repeated concerns around detainees' access to education and programs.

The premier and Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston will meet with stakeholders including Mr Ryan and the state's commissioner for children and young people.

But Mr McGowan ruled out an inquiry, saying he was not interested in a "talkfest".

Children who are on remand in WA have been detained alongside sentenced prisoners since 2012 when the Rangeview detention centre was closed.

Mr Ryan, whose next inspection of Banksia Hill is scheduled for February, said the decision had "proven to be a failure".

"What is remarkable is that short periods of progress and improvement have always been followed by crisis and instability," he wrote.

"The issues identified (most recently) bear a striking similarity to many of the issues raised in previous reports."

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