Lawyers who visited children held at Barwon maximum security adult prison yesterday say that the conditions are cruel and intolerable.
Children told the lawyers that they are “being treated like caged animals”, saying, “we’re being left in our cells to rot away”. The children described spending their days pacing four steps up and back in their solitary cells.
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that Barwon is unequivocally unfit for children.
“Children reported being locked down in solitary confinement, with less than one hour a day out of their cramped cells. They haven’t seen the sky for close to a week. They’re fearful and reported being threatened with the use of dogs, restraints and gas,” said Ms Barson.
Most of the children held at Barwon are only 16 years old. Many have a registered disability, have been exposed to family violence and are in the child protection system. They don’t have any access to education or treatment programs, which they would normally receive in an appropriate youth justice facility.
Ms Barson said that Victoria is at risk of going down the dark path of Don Dale, and that it is morally unacceptable for Premier Andrews to turn a blind eye to this inhumane treatment.
“Nobody would want their own child exposed to this kind of harm. It is implausible that Premier Andrews has no alternative but to send children to the states worst adult prison – the prison where Carl Williams was murdered,” said Ms Barson.
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service will argue in the Supreme Court this Wednesday that the Government has acted unlawfully in transferring children to Barwon.
For media comment:
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre: 0417 773 037
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519