The shadow minister for corrections has accused the government of neglecting its duty of care after a 19-year-old Juvenile Justice inmate was charged with indecently assaulting a minor in jail.
The inmate, who returned to Wagga Local Court this week, was serving time in juvie for sexually assaulting a minor when he allegedly committed four indecent assaults in one day.
Under state legislation, a person who committed a crime while they were under 18 can remain in a Juvenile Justice centre until the age of 21 years and six months.
Shadow minister for corrections Guy Zangari said the fact that fully-grown adults were allowed to mix with children in custody was further proof that the state’s corrections system had now reached “crisis” point.
“There is a duty of care that Juvenile Justice has to those young offenders, and that duty of care is partly to contain them but also to rehabilitate them,” Mr Zangari said.
“It makes it very difficult if you have fully grown adults technically in a system that is meant for juveniles.”
Mr Zangari said that duty of care was being neglected if juveniles were becoming victims of adult inmates.
“You would think that the risk assessments are being done, that the proper checks are going on to ensure that this type of offender is not mixing in with younger offenders,” he said.
A Juvenile Justice spokeswoman insisted that each and every juvenile was risk-assessed upon entry and said the safety and wellbeing of the young people in their care was of “critical importance”.
“In instances where sex offences are involved, the young offender will not share a room with other detainees,” she said.
“Juvenile Justice has a number of other safety measures in place, including CCTV, close supervision, and offence-focused interventions, including visits with the centre psychologist.”
Under state legislation, the power to decide whether an adult aged between 18 and 21 should be detained in a Juvenile Justice centre or a normal correctional facility lies with the courts.
In theory, this means the age gap between inmates could be up to 11 years.