Don Dale youth de­ten­tion cen­tre set on fire in ma­jor dis­tur­bance

The Guardian Australia - - News - Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press

Po­lice have quelled a ma­jor dis­tur­bance at Dar­win’s no­to­ri­ous Don Dale youth de­ten­tion cen­tre af­ter two in­mates at­tacked a guard, stole his keys and re­leased de­tainees from their cells. A group of in­mates then set the fa­cil­ity’s school on fire, which was de­stroyed, and grabbed an­gle grinders to cut fences and try to es­cape.

At least 15 po­lice cars, in­clud­ing tac­ti­cal re­sponse ve­hi­cles, as well as fire­fight­ers and am­bu­lances, rushed to the cen­tre about 6.45pm on Tues­day amid re­ports of a dis­tur­bance. About three hours later flames and thick smoke could be seen bil­low­ing from the cen­tre.

It took po­lice more than seven hours to find all of the de­tainees af­ter the emer­gency be­gan. All 25 in­mates are cur­rently in cells at the Dar­win po­lice sta­tion watch.

Just af­ter mid­night about 12 de­tainees were spot­ted be­ing taken from the cen­tre in po­lice ve­hi­cles af­ter po­lice handed the fa­cil­ity back to the gov­ern­ment de­part­ment over­see­ing it.

It is the sec­ond time in three weeks keys have been stolen from a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer at Don Dale.

One staff mem­ber suf­fered in­juries in­clud­ing lac­er­a­tions and stitches, said Ter­ri­tory Fam­i­lies’ gen­eral man­ager of youth jus­tice, Brent Warren.

He partly blamed the riot and a spate of vi­o­lent in­ci­dents at the cen­tre on the fact that it is a for­mer adult prison not “fit for pur­pose” for re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing young of­fend­ers.

“Ter­ri­tory Fam­i­lies in­her­ited an adult prison that was re­tired a num­ber of years ago,” Warren said. “We are try­ing to make do with what we’ve got. We have in­vested a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money chang­ing the na­ture of the fa­cil­ity to make it look and feel more suit­able for young peo­ple in de­ten­tion.

“At the end of the day, it is still a re­tired and bro­ken adult prison.”

Ear­lier this year the NT gov­ern­ment ac­cepted calls to close the cen­tre af­ter a royal com­mis­sion un­cov­ered dis­turb­ing ev­i­dence of abuse. The fi­nal re­port of the $54m in­quiry re­leased last No­vem­ber made 227 rec­om­men­da­tions, all of which the gov­ern­ment said it would adopt.

Footage of teenagers be­ing tear­gassed, spit-hooded and shack­led to re­straint chairs in youth pris­ons sparked the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and prompted La­bor to in­ject mil­lions of dol­lars to over­haul the bro­ken ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion sys­tem.

The cen­tre re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion in 2016 when the ABC aired footage of the abuse of youths, in­clud­ing the Abo­rig­i­nal teen Dy­lan Voller in a re­straint chair wear­ing a spit hood.

Don Dale has con­tin­ued to be the

sub­ject of neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity this year, with four boys ac­cused of start­ing fires at the cen­tre in July and in­juries to prison guards in May.

The NT gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted $70m for two new de­ten­tion cen­tres in Dar­win and Alice Springs as part of $229.6m to be spent over the next five years to over­haul the child pro­tec­tion and youth jus­tice sys­tems, and im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions of the royal com­mis­sion.

Pho­to­graph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

At least 15 po­lice cars rushed to the Don Dale youth de­ten­tion cen­tre af­ter a dis­tur­bance brokeout and in­mates set fire to parts of the fa­cil­ity.

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