Children and young people in Victoria’s youth justice centres are subjected to unacceptable levels of isolation and are routinely “locked down” due to staffing issues, a report by the Commission for Children and Young People tabled in Parliament today reveals.
The report offers an unheard perspective on current issues in Victoria’s youth justice system. Its findings point to long-standing issues of understaffing, poor transparency and extensive use of restrictive practices.
The inquiry found isolation was imposed at least nine times per day on average, rising to 42 times per day in December 2016.
While 23 per cent of recorded isolations were imposed for periods of an hour, others were recorded for significantly longer, including periods of 24 hours or more. The inquiry found evidence of children and young people on separation plans, isolated from peers and the routine of the centre, for up to 45 days at a time.
Some vulnerable children and young people were isolated on “separation plans” because they had been victims of assault or had attempted suicide. Others were isolated on separation plans following poor behaviour with no evidence of other attempts to address the causes of their behaviour.
In addition to the recorded use of isolation, the inquiry found whole units or entire centres were locked down at least 520 times in 18 months, largely due to inadequate staffing levels. More than 50 of the recorded lockdowns lasted longer than 36 hours and another 88 saw children locked in their rooms for 13 to 20 hours.