The authorities need to take a firmer approach when dealing with the detainees involved in the riots in youth detention centres in Australia, the secretary of the Police Association has said, as it is draining police resources.
Youths that are placed at the Malmsbury youth justice centre, about 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, and the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville, three kilometres north of the CBD – the Central Business District – have been rioting over the past couple of months.
The latest riot happened at the weekend at the Parkville centre and continued into Monday, with about 40 inmates damaging property and about a dozen barricading themselves in areas of the facility to avoid police.
Ron Iddles, the secretary of the Police Association, said the rioting led to about 13 police units responding on Monday in an attempt to try to contain the youths.
“While they’re doing that they’re not patrolling the general community,” he said. Iddles said it was time to “move on” from therapeutic models of responding to youth, referring to a pilot programme that has seen therapeutic specialists sent to detention facilities to work with those suffering trauma and neglect.
While therapeutic models of justice are more costly, a report from 2011 found that overall benefits were gained in reduced demand for crisis services, youth justice, police and the courts.
Therapeutic care costs an extra HK$380,000 per year for each young person compared with standard residential care, but Iddles said therapeutic care models were not being properly implemented.
“They don’t have the staff or the financial backing ... people who are involved have had two to five days training in it,” he said.
“This model was about empowering our youth healing. Well it hasn’t worked. So I think we have to go back to where we were many years ago – they’re incarcerated, they’re given some education but they’re treated as if they are prisoners.”
The youth affairs minister, Jenny Mikakos, said that some of the youths involved in the riots had been transferred to an adult prison, but it was unclear whether this was a temporary measure or a longer-term strategy.
On Monday she said the facility would be rebuilt, saying the “infrastructure at this Parkville facility is letting us down”.
“It was built in the early 1990s and it is not fit for purpose,” she told reporters, adding that new laws would be considered that would mean youths who assaulted corrections officers would have the assault taken into account when appearing before a youth parole board.
The shadow minister for children, Georgie Crozier, said Mikakos had “lost control of youth justice”.
She said the premier, Daniel Andrews, “needs to step in and tell Jenny Mikakos that these offenders need less pizza and more discipline”.