Concerns of torture in WA youth prison: “I felt like a dog”

The Intensive Support Unit at Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre, Western Australia, must be immediately closed pending investigation, said Amnesty International following serious allegations of abuse of young people which may amount to torture.

Amnesty International visited Banksia Hill last week and interviewed two young people who have allegedly been subjected to solitary confinement and other ill-treatment.

“These are very serious allegations, which if confirmed would put the practices at the  Banksia Hill Detention Centre in clear breach of international law and standards, and may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Manager.

“These are very serious allegations, which if confirmed would put the practices at the  Banksia Hill Detention Centre in clear breach of international law and standards, and may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Manager.

“What I was told at Banksia Hill by these two young people was deeply disturbing.

“Being held for weeks on end in a cell as small as a car parking space, with as little as 10 minutes out of the cell each day. When they did leave the cell, being handcuffed. Sometimes being denied access to basic services like a shower. Being fed through a grill in the door. And despite the serious mental harm of this type of isolation, limited access to a psychologist.”

According to several sources, three young people were held for periods of solitary confinement in the Intensive Support Unit, previously called the Harding Unit, for at least two weeks at a time between May and August last year. Two remain in the Unit after one was moved to an adult facility in December.

Further concerns about the ill-treatment of the young people in the Unit include the deprivation of family contact and education, lack of adequate medical treatment, excessive use of force, disproportionate use of restraints, degrading treatment including daily stripping of bed materials, no or limited exercise and no access to programs or services.

One of the young men told Amnesty International he “felt like a dog”.

One of the young men told Amnesty International he “felt like a dog”.

“It is critical that the West Australian government instigate a full and thorough independent investigation into the situation for these boys, and into the operations of the Intensive Support Unit. Pending that it must be closed immediately,” said Tammy Solonec.

“Amnesty International is aware that plans now exist for ‘integration’ for both these detainees, however the fact remains that it is not appropriate for children to be held in facilities that do not meet international standards.”

“Holding children in solitary confinement as punishment for long periods can cause serious psychological and sometimes physiological harm.

“Sadly these allegations of severe mistreatment are just the latest in an avalanche of horrors spilling out from Banksia in the past six months alone.”

“Sadly these allegations of severe mistreatment are just the latest in an avalanche of horrors spilling out from Banksia in the past six months alone.”

In July 2017 the extreme suffering endured by children in Banksia Hill was revealed following findings from the Inspector of Custodial Services including the use of spit hoods, solitary confinement, alleged sexual assault, and soaring rates of self-harm and attempted suicide.

“The Don Dale detention centre’s version of the Intensive Support Unit was ordered by the Northern Territory Royal Commission to be closed and never opened again. The same needs to happen here,” said Tammy Solonec.

“The situation at Banksia Hill is yet another example of why Prime Minister Turnbull must lead the country to overhaul the current system in favour of a national approach supporting and strengthening children, families and communities.”

Amnesty International made initial contact with the Minister for Corrective Services about one case in December 2017, and a second case last week. No formal response has been received but it is understood that the Department is looking into the individual claims.

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