Don Dale Youth Detention Centre

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Don Dale Youth Detention Centre
BerrimahPrison Nov2008.png
Location Berrimah, Northern Territory
Coordinates 12°26′45″S 130°56′26″E / 12.445775°S 130.940616°E / -12.445775; 130.940616Coordinates: 12°26′45″S 130°56′26″E / 12.445775°S 130.940616°E / -12.445775; 130.940616
Status Operational
Security class Maximum, for juvenile[1] males and females
Opened November 1991[1]
Managed by Northern Territory Correctional Services

The Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is a facility for juvenile detention in the Northern Territory, Australia, located in Berrimah, east of Darwin. It is a maximum security prison for male and female juvenile delinquents. The facility is named after Don Dale, a former Member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1983 to 1989 and one-time Minister for Correctional Services.

On 25 July 2016, the ABC broadcast a Four Corners report that disclosed the abuse of youths in the Northern Territory corrections system which triggered the Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention in the Northern Territory.

Facilities[edit]

2008 photograph of prison site.

The Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre was the Northern Territory's first purpose-built institution for young male and female offenders from across the Northern Territory aged from 10 to 16 years. Built in 1991, it was originally located adjacent to Berrimah Prison. The facility replaced Malak House, which had operated as a detention centre since 1987. Don Dale provided medium to high level detention, usually in single cells.[2] In the early 2000s all detainees at Don Dale were expected to attend school unless they were involved in vocational programs.[2]

In 2011, Xzibit, a US rapper, visited the centre and talked to inmates about his life experiences, following being detained in a juvenile detention centre as a 14-year-old.[3]

Death in Custody[edit]

A 16-year-old Aboriginal boy named Johnno Johnson Wurramarrba from Groote Eylandt committed suicide at Don Dale in February 2000. In January, Wurramarrba was sentenced to 28 days detention under the Northern Territory's mandatory sentencing laws for stealing oil and paint from Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt. A Coronial Inquiry into the circumstances of the death resulted in a number of recommendations being made relating to training of staff and management practices in the centre.[4]

Use of tear gas[edit]

In August 2014, six boys were in solitary confinement cells in the Behavioural Management Unit. One boy walked out of an unlocked cell, and beat on a locked reinforced door. The staff declared that there was a "riot", and released tear gas into the hallway, gassing all six boys. It took up to eight minutes to remove the boys in their cells from the tear gas.[5][6] A news release to the media falsely asserted that six boys had escaped from their cells, despite CCTV in the hallway showing only one boy in the hallway.[7] The incident, among others, was investigated by the Northern Territory Children's Commissioner Colleen Gywnne in a report provided in August 2015 to the then Corrections Minister John Elferink.[8]

Relocation to Berrimah Prison[edit]

Following the tear gas incident, the youths were moved from Malak House to formerly adult Berrimah Prison and Malak House was closed. In September 2014, the prison was renamed Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.[9] The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency remained critical of conditions at the new site.[10]

Use of restraint chairs and cable ties on children was expressly legalised by the Northern Territory Government in May 2016[11] and were used at facilities in both Darwin and Alice Springs.[12]

Four Corners program[edit]

Graphic footage of repeated abuse of children at Don Dale, including the 2014 tear gas incident, was featured in ABC's Four Corners episode "Australia's Shame", which aired on 25 July 2016.[6] Later in the year the documentary was televised worldwide. Teenage boys were shown being assaulted, stripped naked and tear-gassed. They were being held in isolation up to 72 hours with no running water. The program also showed a 17-year-old boy shackled and hooded in a chair at a facility in Alice Springs.[13] The Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was "shocked" at the "appalling treatment" of the detainees, which violates the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, to which Australia is party.[14] Global broadcast of the documentary caused worldwide astonishment about the inadequate actions of the minister.

Following national outrage, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention in the Northern Territory.[15] John Elferink was sacked as Corrections Minister the morning after the program aired. The corrections and justice portfolios were taken on by Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles.[16] Use of restraint chairs and spithoods were then suspended.[17]

Proposed closure[edit]

On 28 July 2016, it was announced that the 33 youths incarcerated in the centre were to be moved to the Wickham Point Detention Centre, a former immigration detention centre, located around 50 kilometres south of Darwin. The Wickham Point Detention Centre has been deemed by the Australian Human Rights Commission to be "completely inappropriate for children".[18] Within 24 hours the decision to close the centre and relocate the detainees "had been scrapped for the time being", with Chief Minister Giles saying that the facilities at Don Dale were “good enough”.[19]

Chief Minister Giles may have been wrong with recent media investigations (ABC news March 20th, 2017) showing systemic sexual abuse of children of both genders, systemic abuse by guards, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse; and a lack of governance oversight that ensured a permissive culture of guard entitlement to treat vulnerable children as play toys for their own gratification.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Comparative Youth Penality Project (CYPP): Major themes by decade". Australian Prisons Project. University of New South Wales. 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre (1991 - )". Find & Connect. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Mosley, Lisa (15 December 2011). "Rapper spreads hip-hop hope to troubled youths". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "Findings in the death of Johnno Johnson Wurramarrba [2001] NTMC 84" (PDF). Department of the Attorney-General and Justice. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  5. ^ Jones, Ruby (22 August 2014). "Teens tear-gassed in clash at Darwin's Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Caro Meldrum-Hanna; Elise Worthington. "Evidence of 'torture' of children held in Don Dale detention centre uncovered by Four Corners". Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  7. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm
  8. ^ Gywnne, Colleen (20 August 2015). "OWN INITIATIVE INVESTIGATION REPORT SERVICES PROVIDED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES AT THE DON DALE YOUTH DETENTION CENTRE" (PDF). The Children's Commissioner Northern Territory. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  9. ^ Purtill, James (25 August 2014). "Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre to shut within days after tear gas riot". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Purtill, James (16 January 2015). "Tour of refurbished Don Dale juvenile prison fails to sway NT Aboriginal justice agency". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Oaten, James (26 May 2016). "Restraint chairs with cable ties approved for youths in NT". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Wild, Kate (12 November 2015). "Teen hooded and strapped to chair for two hours while in juvenile custody in Northern Territory". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Doran, Matthew; Anderson, Stephanie. "Royal commission into NT youth detention to investigate possible human rights breaches". ABC News. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "UN 'shocked' at Don Dale inmate abuse". Sky News. 30 July 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  15. ^ Hunter, Fergus (27 July 2016). "Malcolm Turnbull calls royal commission into youth abuse at Northern Territory's Don Dale detention centre". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "John Elferink sacked from Corrections in wake of Four Corners report; Adam Giles alleges culture of cover-up". ABC News. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  17. ^ Davidson, Helen (28 July 2016). "Northern Territory halts use of restraint chairs and spithoods in youth detention". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Murphy, Damien (28 July 2016). "Teenagers and young boys to be moved from Don Dale Detention Centre to former immigration centre, 50km away". The Age. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  19. ^ "NT Government backflips on Don Dale Youth Detention centre plans within 24 hours". news.com.au. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  • Adlam, Nigel (26 December 2006). "No Hope Left for Boot Camp". Northern Territory News. 
  • Baxter, Penny (16 February 2000). "Where NT Youths Do Time". Northern Territory News. 

External links[edit]