Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Swiftly investigate misconduct and assault, review urges?

Prison Officers at state juvenile detention [prison] centres should swiftly investigate allegations of misconduct and assault at detention [prison] centres the report urges.

It says about 70 accusations against staff were pending in December, and some are taking more than a year to complete.

Government consultant, John Newbery, also recommended that prison officers at state juvenile detention centres should also wear uniforms and be subject to compulsory drug and alcohol testing, a review of work practices at the centres recommends.

The review was ordered last year after revelations that staff at the Kariong centre had lost control of it and its inmates. A lack of discipline had led to reports of riots, industrial action, drug use and an incident in which a convicted juvenile was fondled by his girlfriend in the only place they could,in the visiting section of the centre in view of other visitors, but not particularly.

In other words they didn't do it on purpose they were driven senseless by passion, no doubt!

In November the Minister for Juvenile injustice, diane beamer, handed control of Kariong to the Department of Corruptive Services and ordered a review of her department's work practices.

The review, submitted by beamer to a parliamentary inquiry on juvenile offenders, says staff at the centres would support legislation to allow the department to enforce drug and alcohol testing.

"No Juvenile Justice staff or stockholders' representatives interviewed during this review opposed drug and alcohol testing of staff," it says.

"Virtually all agreed that reasonable suspicion-based testing should be the minimum, and many supported random testing as well... A number supported the use of sniffer dogs."

The review also says the department should consider introducing a uniform or dress code. Unlike prison officers, staff at juvenile centres wear casual clothes to encourage less formal relationships with inmates, although staff at two centres have voluntarily begun wearing black collared T-shirts with their centre's logo on them.

What about pink uniforms?

The review also recommends changes to reduce the time taken by the department's complaint handling unit to investigate accusations of misconduct. Juvenile centres deal with a large number of complaints because staff have wide powers to use physical force against violent inmates even though that lesson only gets short term results and in the long term opposed to dialogue only teaches them a very bad lesson, 'that violence wins'.

Then they want to send them back to the community to teach you that violence wins?

"This issue causing most concern for staff and key stakeholders is the amount of time taken to undertake investigations," the report says.

"The professional conduct unit is overworked... Improving disciplinary processes would need to go beyond re-assessing the [unit's] role."

The department's director-general, David Sherlock, said yesterday that he supported many of the review's recommendations, including drug testing.

"Sometimes staff are put under pressure by kids to bring in drugs, and we have to ensure that that is minimised," Mr Sherlock said.

The Government is expected to introduce drug testing within 12 months, including searches of staff and visitors on entry and random and targeted testing.

Mr Sherlock said he supported standardised dress codes for staff, but not strict uniforms.

"Working with juveniles we try to create an environment that doesn't set up a very cold, conflictual situation between staff and kids who are in the centre."

Mr Sherlock said the department was consulting with the union to speed up the complaints-handling process.

By Jonathan Pearlman and Just Us 29 June 05

REPORT: NSW Department of Corrective Services 2004

The Hon Charlie Lynn: How many complaints were there by inmates or staff assaulting or abusing inmates?

The Hon John Hatzistergos: I do not know. Do you want me to ask every inmate who was in every correctional centre how many people?

The Hon Charlie Lynn: No how many complaints were there. Do you have a complaints system or registration of complaints system?


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