Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Prison treatment of unruly black youth criticized

The prison officers were clearly just trying to shock him into co-operativeness

SHOCKING footage from ­inside Brisbane Correctional Centre shows a 17-year-old being confronted by seven ­officers and put in restraints including a spit mask — a ­practice Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said was not used in Queensland.

On remand for offences including break and enters and robbery, the teenager was placed in a barren cell because the adult prison’s “boys yard” was already overcrowded.

He appears in the footage — obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail — to be yelling before prison officers enter his cell, but does not become violent or resist and there is no suggestion he spat.

The prison officers put him in handcuffs attached to a body belt to restrict his movement, placed the spit mask over his head and left him alone in the cell for an hour.

CCTV footage of the teenager being placed in a spit mask.
Prison reports suggest the Aboriginal teen, Jarrod Clayton, was restrained because he pressed the emergency intercom without reason and was warned about the same thing the previous day.

He had earlier sworn at officers and kicked his cell door.

His treatment was the subject of a complaint of excessive force that was eventually dismissed on the basis of insufficient evidence.

After a similar incident in a Northern Territory youth detention centre was made public, Ms D’Ath said the treatment of the offender was appalling and “spit hoods ... are not used in Queensland”.

In any other state Clayton would have been in a juvenile detention centre, with Queensland alone in the country in treating 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

The Prisoners’ Legal Service uncovered the February 2013 video during an investigation into the teenager’s treatment during the term of the former Newman government.

Director Peter Lyons said the actions were “extreme and degrading”.  “This is a classic example of what happens when you place a 17-year-old in the environment of an adult prison,” he said.

The face mask, body belt and handcuffs “cannot be seen as being reasonably necessary” to stop him pressing the intercom button, he said.

“The use of multiple restraints and abandonment of the juvenile while restrained and hooded amounted, in our opinion, to punishment unlawfully administered by the corrective services officers.”

Barrister and Youth Advocacy Centre chairman ­Damien Atkinson said the video “looks horribly routine, as if they have done it many times before”.

“What you can see is prison officers don’t have a lot of skills for dealing with young people, and the time we have them in custody is being ­wasted,” he said.

Mr Atkinson has lobbied successive governments to bring Queensland in line with other states and treat 17-year-olds as juveniles.

“The State Government says we don’t put Queensland children in spit hoods. But here’s a child and here’s a spit hood. Everyone in the Queensland public treat 17-year-olds as children and they belong in the youth justice system.”

Clayton had never before been in detention including juvenile detention.

He had been arrested for break and enters, and armed robbery and car thefts and was using the drug “ice” at the time of his crimes.

Before being transferred to the prison he had spent 16 days in the watch-house so was not drug-affected on his arrival.

Prison reports show officers regarded him as highly disruptive and repeatedly took disciplinary action against him in the month before resorting to the spit mask.

“Prisoner Clayton has no respect or regard for other prisoners or staff,” reads one incident report from January 2013.

Another report from two days before the mask incident says he was “showing increasing signs of aggression”.

Original report here

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