Undercover riot mission
TWO years after the nightmarish riots at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre it has been revealed a senior government staffer went undercover to help improve the facility’s operations.
Two years ago today 20 child prisoners took over the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in a violent riot that blinded one guard and caused almost $ 150,000 worth of damage to the facility.
A cancelled football match sparked the riot that saw angry prisoners climb on to the detention centre roof, arm themselves with metal poles and throw rocks and other objects at guards.
Townsville MP Scott Stewart told the Bulletin a senior staff member from the Queensland Attorney- General’s office went undercover to speak with guards and other workers at Cleveland in the wake of the riot.
“He went in like an under- cover boss situation,” Mr Stewart said.
“They had no idea who he was but he talked to people about the situation … about what needed to be done and what were the biggest concerns.
“People spoke very freely and openly to him, not knowing he was from a government department.
“What he learned helped shape the changes that have been made.”
During the riot one worker, Grant Oaklands, was blinded in one eye after being hit by a rock while he was trying to stop an offender from getting behind a shield wall.
“I met Grant Oaklands afterwards and his wife was there … listening to the fear that they talked about at that time … you couldn’t imagine what they went through,” Mr Stewart said.
“I think you will find there is still some of those people at the time who haven’t returned back to work.”
Mr Stewart said a lot of hard lessons were learned on November 10, 2016.
Since then major changes have been implemented into Cleveland’s operations, particularly in response to an emergency.
A Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women spokeswoman said physical upgrades since the riot included restricting rooftop access, stainless steel security grilles over glass and reinforced steel on doors.
There is strategically placed fencing to assist staff to manage the various groups.
Improved management practices have been implemented to keep younger children separated from older inmates and there has been extensive training for staff in managing potential incidents.
Thirty- seven additional specialist behavioural management staff positions have been allocated to Cleveland Youth Detention Centre as part of the last State Budget.