Glass responded by also writing a letter to Prime Minister and Minister of State for Youth Justice Enver Erdogan, describing her concerns about the use of isolation for vulnerable teenage prisoners.
In her Dec. 12 letter, Glass said she shared many of the whistleblowers’ concerns and that the misuse of isolation practices “has been the subject of several investigations by my office in recent years and confirms the urgent need for regular, independent inspections.”
Isolation, also known as solitary confinement, is defined according to Glass as “the physical isolation of individuals for 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact”.
In her letter, Glass urged the Andrews government to introduce a new prison oversight body known as a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM).
“In my view, both the juvenile and adult custody systems would benefit from the designation of a truly independent NPM – one that does not report to a departmental secretary or minister – to provide regular preventive inspection reports,” she said.
The revelation of Glass’ intervention comes through after an investigation The age And 60 minutes to Indigenous deaths and medical neglect in several Australian prisons.
The inquiry heard from prison health care whistleblowers who described systemic health care breakdowns that fueled the neglect of vulnerable inmates, including Indigenous prisoners; while four mothers of Indigenous prisoners who died or nearly died in prison have also called for urgent reform.
Federal Labor Senator Pat Dodson also called for urgent action from the Albanian government.
The 14 Parkville center whistleblowers also warn that the state government’s new youth detention facility, the Cherry Creek Youth Justice Center, will face the same problem when it becomes operational.
In late December, one of the teachers left Parkville College, which provides services to juveniles in detention, and wrote to the school expressing concern about its “extensive use of isolation.”
“Students were regularly locked in their cells during school hours and outside. Official figures belie the extent of this practice. In my two years at the school, I lost count of the number of times students were locked in their rooms for 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact,” the teacher wrote.
“I witnessed the terrible impact of isolation on students’ mental health and education. One of my Indigenous students had made incredible progress in class before the school schedule was stifled by a period of consecutive lockdowns. His positive contributions in class gave way to constant yelling from his cell.
“During my time at Parkville, there were multiple suicide attempts and incidents of self-harm. Most of these took place while boys were forced to self-isolate in their rooms.”
The teacher, whose name The age would not disclose as sources close to him said he did not want to jeopardize his teaching future, adding that he had discussed his concerns with a senior Victorian department official.
“(That officer) admitted that boys were sometimes locked in their rooms for 22 hours or more a day, but argued that they had meaningful human contact through the stenophone (a metallic-sounding tannoy system that connects the unit’s office to the cells of the boys)”, the letter of resignation reads.
In response to the whistleblowers’ concerns, a senior juvenile justice official told Zoe Daniel that the claims were exaggerated and that isolation practices were being used as “a last resort and stopped as soon as possible”.
The official also said the department’s records showed that the use of “insulation has fallen by 38 percent over the past four years and by 9 percent in the most recent year.”
Karen Batt, secretary of the Community Public Sector Union, said there was a repeating cycle where understaffing exposed workers to violence, leading to staff turnover and in turn increased reliance on isolation.
“The state government is out of ideas and extended mandatory isolation is the only response available to staff to keep everyone safe and this is unsustainable,” Batt said.
In a statement, Erdogan said the government’s top priority was to ensure the safety and well-being of staff and young people in juvenile justice centers, and that the use of isolation was “always a last resort”.
“We want to give these young people under our care every opportunity to break the cycle of recidivism and get their lives back on track – helping them with their education is a critical part of that,” he said.
“Isolation is always a last resort and never used as a form of punishment.
“On the rare occasions where it is permitted, the health and development needs of young people are prioritized and all cases of isolation are recorded and reported to the Commissioner for Children and Youth.”
If you or someone you know needs support, call Helpline for children 1800 55 1800, Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond blue 1300 224 636.
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