Less then a month before the Supreme Court hears the third legal challenge to the Victorian Government's decision to detain children at the Barwon maximum security adult prison, lawyers are concerned that the use of extreme practices appears to be increasing.
Alina Leikin, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, who represents 15 of the children being held in detention, said Barwon is manifestly inappropriate for children.
"We knew the kids were being isolated for 23 hours a day, but now we are hearing that for the single hour that they have out of their cell, they are alone and are handcuffed for the entire time," said Ms Leikin.
Allegation of assaults by staff, extensive isolation and lack of education have plagued the facility. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled the Victorian Government's decision to transfer children to Barwon was unlawful, but the Government simply reclassified the facility and continues to detain children there.
"These kids have made some bad decisions, I'm not making excuses for them. What we need to realise though, is that they are at the crossroads, they have some serious choices to make. The Government should be doing all it can to show them that positive alternatives exist, that they can choose a better life that doesn't involve crime," said Ms Leikin.
Evidence from numerous studies confirm that punitive approaches undermine rehabilitation and therefore ultimately undermine community safety.
"Locking them up in the same place as the State's most hardened adult criminals is not the answer. We should be providing them with an education and focusing on rehabilitation. As a community shouldn't just give up on our kids," said Ms Leikin.