Victorians will be rightly horrified by the revelations in The Same Four Walls, a new investigation into cruel and ineffective management techniques being used in our youth prisons.
The report from the Commission for Children and Young People, finds staff shortages are driving prison officers to lock-up kids on a regular and prolonged basis, creating the preconditions for violence and self-harm.
A Victorian child is locked in isolation at least nine times a day, the report reveals. Whole prisons units have been ‘locked down’ more than 500 times over the past 18 months.
Most children who find themselves in a youth prison have a history of trauma, abuse or neglect.
In this context, the report states that:
“The negative effects of trauma on a child’s brain and behaviour also influence that child’s response to being detained. Loss of liberty [and] being isolated … can act as further triggers, activating a ‘fight or flight’ response that frequently takes the form of aggressive or self-harming behaviour.”
Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Emma King said the CCYP report is a “wake up call” to the State Government.
“Locking kids in small rooms for extended periods of time is an unusually cruel act,” she said.
“It doesn’t help the kids or make our community safer.”
“As this report reveals, using lockdowns as a regular response to bad behaviour can escalate rather than diffuse a situation.”
“Lockdowns should be used as a last resort only, not as a way to manage day-to-day behavioural issues.”
“Clear time limits must be set on the use of lockdowns and the Victorian Government must ensure kids get some fresh air each day.”
“The way to keep Victoria safe is to embrace therapeutic and age-appropriate approaches to justice, not cruel and outdated forms of punishment.”
‘Restoring youth justice‘, VCOSS submission to the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into youth justice centres