Banksia Hill detention centre: Department, police probe two disturbances in four days
Originally published on abc.net.au
An internal investigation will be conducted into two disturbances at Perth's Banksia Hill juvenile detention facility that caused significant damage to buildings as police consider laying charges against those involved.
During the most serious incident, which occurred yesterday afternoon, rioting teenage inmates armed with makeshift weapons barricaded themselves inside a unit at the prison, smashing windows and furniture.
Staff used flash bombs to distract those involved and pepper spray.
The centre was placed in lockdown for an hour and a half and the Community and Public Sector Union said one wing of the facility had been rendered uninhabitable, but no injuries were reported.
Department of Corrective Services deputy operational services commissioner Tony Hassall said disturbances at Banksia Hill were not uncommon.
"What we will do internally is go back and have a look at the factors that may have caused it ... but it is not uncommon in an institutional setting," he told the ABC.
"To have two of this nature in one week at the same centre, yes it's uncommon but we need to understand what has caused it, so that will be part of our review."
Weapons made from broken furniture
He said the inmates involved had fashioned weapons out of broken furniture, and staff had worked hard to bring the situation under control.
"There was considerable damage, broken chairs, broken doors and they used that, the stuff that they had broken, as weapons against staff," he said.
'We deal with very volatile, damaged young people that come into the system, sometimes they act in a way that you or I may think is unacceptable, but sometimes it's their only way of communicating.
"Any incident in a prison like this is concerning because you don't want young people to be hurt and you don't want staff to be hurt, it is unusual to have this type of incident happen so we have to look at that.
"Our preferred mode is de-escalation and what doesn't get reported is all the times staff work really hard to de-escalate incidents, which happens a lot."
He said the decision to use force was only made after careful consideration.
"It's always the safety of staff and young people at the forefront of what we do when we manage these incidents."
Police are also investigating the disturbance and are yet to say whether charges will be laid.
Thursday's disturbance happened after four male detainees used a table tennis table to barricade themselves inside D-Wing.
In a similar incident on Monday, three teenagers also barricaded themselves inside a wing of the prison and smashed a television and furniture.
Thursday's disturbance has been referred to police but no charges have yet been laid.
Sources told the ABC there had been "tensions and problems simmering" at the centre for the past few weeks, including inmates trying to scale roofs.
The prison currently houses 140 detainees and is WA's only juvenile detention centre.