A tough and shocking watch.
It almost defies belief but right here in Australia there is a prison system that locks up 10 year olds and places children as young as thirteen in solitary confinement.
“This is barbarism, this is inhumane, this is child abuse.” Lawyer
Children have been confined to an isolation wing with no access to sunlight or running water.
“Those cells were ghoulish, they were something medieval.” Lawyer
Some held for weeks on end, deprived of basic necessities.
“We all sort of looked at each other in shock… there were signs of life in there but we didn’t know who was in there or what was happening, or how long they’d been there.”Lawyer
Deprived of hope.
“What’s going on with children in detention here is a deliberate, punitive, cruel policy.”Lawyer
On Monday night Four Corners reveals the shocking truth about the treatment of children behind bars, where young offenders have been stripped naked, assaulted and tear gassed.
“They had absolutely nowhere to run…Those children were afraid for their lives.”Children’s Advocate
Held by a system that seems bent on breaking children instead of reforming them.
“If I treated my children like that, the authorities would take my children from me quite properly because I would be behaving cruelly to them.” Lawyer
This confronting investigation with send shockwaves around Australia.
Australia’s Shame, reported by Caro Meldrum-Hanna and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 25th July at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 26th July at 10.00am and Wednesday 27th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24on Saturday at 8.00pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
Monday 25 July 2016 – ‘Australia’s Shame’
Sarah Ferguson: Welcome to Four Corners.
The image you have just seen isn’t from Guantanamo bay…. or Abu Ghraib.. but Australia in 2015… A boy, hooded, shackled, strapped to a chair and left alone. It is barbaric.
This is juvenile justice in the Northern Territory, a system that punishes troubled children instead of rehabilitating them – where children as young as 10 are locked up and 13 year olds are kept in solitary confinement.
Most of the images secured by Four Corners in this investigation have never been seen publicly. They are shocking – but for the sake of these children who are desperate for the truth to be known, we cannot look away.
Caro Meldrum Hanna reports.
Caro Meldrum-Hanna: It’s August 2014.
Inside the Don Dale youth detention centre…behind this grey door…six boys are being held in the isolation wing.
As evening approaches…inside the Behavioural Management Unit…
A 14 year old boy is trying to get out of his tiny concrete cell.
For 36 minutes CCTV records the boy, using a broken light fitting…trying again and again to open the door.
One of the guards on duty this afternoon…has forgotten to lock it.
The boy has been kept in solitary confinement …for 23 and a half hours a day…for 15 days straight.
He’s lost all sense of time.
And he’s deeply distressed.
Boy E: I’ve been in the back cells for how long bruz?!
Officer: Have you had time out or not?
Boy E: Yeah but I’ve been fuckin’ stuck in there for how long?!
Caro Meldrum-Hanna: The boy’s been asking the guards – repeatedly, for weeks – why he’s being kept in solitary confinement…
And when he’s going to be released from his dark, hot, stinking cell.
Officer: That doors not going to hold.
Officer: He’s supposed to be getting out next week.
Caro Meldrum-Hanna: On the other side of the reinforced door…
A group of prison officers is at the ready.
Officer: Fuckin’ idiot.
Officer: He’s an idiot bro.
Caro Meldrum-Hanna: The officers on duty tonight are heard laughing at the boy’s anguish.
Officer: I hope it’s recording?
Officer: Yeah it is recording, it says record.
Caro Meldrum-Hanna: The boy has been pushed to breaking point.
He and five others, aged between 14 and 17 locked in the cells behind him…have been deprived of the most basic human necessities, no natural light, kept in appalling conditions.
CCTV obtained by Four Corners shows some of the boys literally climbing the walls…repeatedly carving their names into the concrete…in some cells, two boys crammed in…unable to walk around at all.
Jared Sharp, Lawyer, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency: Those cells were ghoulish, they were something medieval.
Dr Howard Bath, former NT Children’s Commissioner: They were kept in those cells for up to twenty-four hours a day.
Peter O’Brien, Solicitor: They had no running water, the only water in the cell was in the toilet.
Jared Sharp: So they couldn’t even wash their hands, they had to request water. They had to eat food with their hands.
Dr Howard Bath: Extremely hot conditions um. No air-conditioning, no fans, no direct breeze flowing into that unit.
Peter O’Brien: Reeked of urine and shit.
Dr Howard Bath: You know even the staff were referring to them as revolting conditions.
The link above goes to remainder of transcript and video. There is now talk of a royal commission in to (only!) Northern Territory detention center abuse. It doesn’t get much more di$gusting than this. The repeated stripping of clothes from one boy can only be described as pure terrorism.