Juvenile jail staff put ‘in harm’s way’

The facility.

The facility.

A FORMER Juvenile Justice warden has lifted the lid on life behind bars, likening confronting inmates to “bringing a knife to a gunfight”. 

It comes after The Daily Advertiserrevealed detainees at Wagga’s ‘juvy’, the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre (RJJC), have assaulted staff on 27 separate occasions in the last 17 months. 

The staff member, who consulted closely with the Public Services Association (PSA) throughout his tenure, said officers were “appallingly” ill-equipped to deal with frenzied teens. 

“It was often a case of putting yourself in harm’s way to quell a situation,” he said. 

“You rarely can use force so often you end up asking them for mercy.

“For clarity, the kids are for the most part very well behaved - but when these circumstances arise it is basically a free-for-all.

“It’s more an issue with the powers that are given to staff than the kids themselves because these situations are always bound to arise.”

Detailed statistics concerning assaults in Juvenile Justice facilities have been released across the state. 

Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre, a similar-sized facility to RJJC at South Grafton, saw 13 assaults over the same 17 months.

Reiby’s facility, accommodating a maximum of 10 more inmates than RJJC, had 15 assaults over the same period. 

PSA’s senior industrial officer Julie Bond revealed the Department of Justice is currently looking to employ better forms of defence tactics to its staff.

“A lot of these detainees have mental health issues and are ice affected, so they don’t care for any sort of authority figure,” she said. 

In a response to The Daily Advertiser on Thursday morning, the Department of Justice said staff safety is paramount.

“Any assault on our staff is unacceptable,” a spokesperson said.

“The safety and security of Juvenile Justice staff is of paramount importance.

“Young people in custody often have complex needs including education difficulties, mental health issues, past history of trauma and alcohol and other drug abuse.”

The Department did not deny the figures, which had been released in Parliament. 

“The NSW Government is also investing $1 million in additional training to support frontline staff manage challenging detainees,” the spokesperson said.

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