On the evening of Sunday 20 January 2013, an extremely serious incident of mass disorder occurred at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre (‘Banksia Hill’), a facility managed by the Department of Corrective Services (‘the Department’). This was by far the most serious incident of this type in Western Australia since what is generally known as the ‘Casuarina Prison riot’ of Christmas Day 1998. Although the incident had some very specific dynamics and features which set it apart from previous prison ‘riots’ in Western Australia (for example, staff and detainees were not targeted with violence), the term ‘riot’ is an apt description of the incident.
Banksia Hill is the state’s only juvenile detention centre and at the time, housed 185 males and 21 females. The incident began just before 6.00 pm when three male detainees absconded from one of the units and then used some loose pavers and debris to break another detainee out of his cell. After the first assisted break out, the situation escalated with more and more detainees being assisted to break out of their cells.
In total, sixty one detainees escaped from their cells and a significant number of detainees caused damage to their cells. Due to the nature of the incident and the extent of the damage, it has not been possible to put a precise figure on the number of detainees involved in the incident. Department-supplied figures put the number of detainees involved in the riot at around 73, all male, but it is more likely that, in total, somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of Banksia Hill’s male detainees were actively involved to some degree, and also some of the females.
Extensive damage was caused to parts of the buildings at Banksia Hill, including 106 cells, as well as to some equipment and personal property. The worst of the damage resulted from windows being attacked from both the outside and the inside.
The consequences for the detainees were dramatic, with 73 of the male detainees being immediately transferred in the early hours of 21 January 2013 to a nearby adult prison, Hakea Prison (‘Hakea’). Within the next three weeks the majority of the remaining male detainees at Banksia Hill were subsequently transferred to Hakea while the damage caused by the riot was repaired and security upgrades implemented. The female detainees continued to be housed at Banksia Hill along with a small number of male detainees under 15 years of age and some older male detainees who needed to be held there for specific purposes.
This Paper focuses specifically on the management of juvenile detainees after the riot, both at Banksia Hill and at the temporary youth custodial facility that was established by the Department inside Hakea Prison and known as the Hakea Juvenile Facility (‘Hakea JF’).
The Paper deals with two distinct periods. The first of these periods is the immediate aftermath of the riot, defined as the two weeks from 21 January to 4 February 2013. During this period, 73 male detainees were housed in Unit 5 at Hakea Prison, with 133 detainees remaining at Banksia Hill. The Department was still assessing the damage at Banksia Hill and formulating a plan to address the ongoing emergency situation. Detainees at both sites were subjected to a highly restrictive custodial regime, and the Paper examines whether or not this regime could be justified.
The second period discussed in this Paper follows immediately from the first, extending from 4 February through to mid-June 2013. At the beginning of this period, the Department transferred the majority of male detainees to Hakea Prison to allow repairs and security upgrades to be undertaken at Banksia Hill. Units 11 and 12 at Hakea Prison were gazetted as a detention centre and referred to as the Hakea JF. It was estimated that the works at Banksia Hill would not be complete until the end of June. Hakea JF would therefore be an improvised juvenile detention centre for five months or more. In this context, it was important for the Department to re-establish a more normal regime and a structured program of activities as soon as possible. In effect, this Paper explores the extent to which the Department was able to restore a more normal regime for detainees at Hakea JF and Banksia Hill.
The methodology involved in the preparation of this Paper included the examination of a number of relevant documents, a survey of Banksia Hill employees, focus groups and meetings of detainees and staff and regular site visits to Banksia Hill and Hakea JF.