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 review is one of a suite of six Papers prepared as part of the Inquiry into the riot. It focuses on the conditions of detention for the detainees at Banksia Hill and Hakea Juvenile Facility and how these conditions comply with both law and practice.