Juvenile detainees at Perth’s Hakea prison damage cells

Disturbance leaves some inmates with ‘minor cuts during the vandalism’, corrective services department says

The controversy surrounding the detention of juveniles at an adult prison in Western Australia has taken a new turn as the state’s Department for Corrective Services confirmed a disturbance at Hakea prison involving 12 young detainees has left 10 cells damaged and some of those involved with minor injuries.

The damage occurred on Thursday evening about 7pm. After a riot in January at WA’s only juvenile detention facility, Banksia Hill, more than 100 young male inmates have been held at Hakea adult prison in a juvenile compound.

In a statement the department said shelving, toilets, shower screens and observation windows had been damaged. Some detainees were left with “minor cuts during the vandalism” and Guardian Australia understands those involved have been moved to secure cells at Banksia Hill. They will remain under the supervision of youth custodial staff.

The department said the unrest was not categorised as a riot and no staff had been injured.

The corrective services minister, Joe Francis, said the youth custodial staff and prison officers had dealt with the matter with “absolute professionalism”.

“I am thoroughly impressed by the youth custodial officers and the emergency service group team members who were on duty last night at Hakea,” he told the ABC.

He said it had taken staff “a couple of minutes” to get to the disturbance, adding: “It certainly won’t be a case of using tasers on juveniles.”

The acting commissioner for corrective services, Heather Harker, told the ABC that the disturbance had been started by one inmate.

“Officers went to him, then he started shouting to others to encourage them to damage their cells,” she said, adding that the vandalism had gone on for between two and three hours.

On Monday, Guardian Australia published allegations that a number of the boys charged with being involved in January’s riot had been singled out by corrective services staff during transfers to and from Hakea prison. These allegations included the use of lockdowns and shackling some of the children by the wrists and ankles during transfer. The department said it had not received any formal complaints on these grounds.

It said it could not comment on whether any of those juveniles involved in Thursday’s disturbance were also involved in January’s riot.

Earlier in August the WA inspector of custodial services, Neil Morgan, published a report on the January riot which concluded the event had been “entirely predictable”. Referring to the staff shortages and rolling lockdowns that preceded it, Morgan said: “Idle, bored children will invariably become frustrated and are very likely to act out their frustrations.”

The department has missed multiple deadlines to return the children detained to Banksia Hill. There are now more than 100 detainees, the majority of whom are Indigenous, at Hakea, with the department committed to a phased return over the coming weeks.

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