Wagga ‘juvy’ staff assaulted 27 times in 17 months

INMATES at Wagga’s juvenile prison have assaulted staff members on 27 separate occasions in the last 17 months. 

Despite the alarming figure, only five prisoners have been placed on the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre’s (RJJC) Detainee Risk Management Plan.

Out of the 27 incidents, eight have taken place in the first five months of 2017.

It comes despite RJJC only accommodating 23 detainees in total. 

The Public Service Association (PSA) have blamed the rise on the region’s prison officers having inadequate powers and a lack of specialised training.

"I think it's fair to say our delegates have had a gut full of being treated like punching bags and being spat on and assaulted on a virtual daily basis," general secretary Stewart Little said.

"There's no training, there's no proper special-built facility, there [are] no programs designed to cater for these people.

"As a result of that, the assault rate on our members has absolutely gone through the roof."

Senior industrial officer Julie Bond said prison guards in Juvenile Justice are under-equipped compared to Corrective Services.

“One officer will carry a set of handcuffs and in a really serious situation, they get shields and masks,” she said.

“In one particular incident last year, I was surprised the officer made it out alive.”

The Department of Justice defines assault as aggressive behaviour ranging from abuse and threats to spitting, pushing, striking and the use of physical force. 

The Daily Advertiser contacted the Department of Justice with a series of questions, but did not receive a reply by publication. 

However, a former Air Force drill sergeant who turned his attention to Wagga’s youth crime crisis said he was humbled by his tenure volunteering at RJJC.

Mentor Steve Barker said it often comes down to peer pressure.

“Many of them wind up in a bad group and through a series of events it lands them in trouble,” he said earlier this year.

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