Un­der­cover riot mis­sion

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - SAM BIDEY

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.

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