It features the most opaque, nay useless, executive summary it has ever been my misfortune to encounter, but by page 16, and still in the “summary” we come to brass tacks:
The Commission identified several problems in relation to the use of force and restraints, in particular that they had been used for minor breaches, staff shortages had meant that they were not always used as a last resort, and de-escalation had not been implemented as often as it should have been. The Commission is concerned that restraints were sometimes used routinely for escorts within Bimberi as a behaviour management technique and without adequate risk assessment. Further, the Use of Force Policy seems not to be used consistently in practice, and records were not properly kept in accordance with legal requirements.
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The Commission has similar concerns in relation to the use of segregation, in that records were not being kept appropriately, and the review process is not sufficiently transparent and rigorous. It appears that young people on segregation were often denied access to full educational programs, contrary to policies. Bimberi has developed the practice of locking young people in their cabins for ‘time out’ if they are noncompliant, without authority under policies and procedures. Also there was inadequate recording of reasons for locking down units for ‘operational reasons’, for example staff shortages.
Although the number of strips searches had declined from their routine use at Quamby, there are worrying signs that they are again increasing. The Commission suggests that alternative search techniques be used, in line with best practice in other jurisdictions. There were some problems in relation to unit searches conducted in the absence of the young person, and the often automatic subsequent requirement of a strip search.
The Commission found that the environment of the Admissions Unit is unnecessarily stark, and is concerned that other young people are co-located here for behaviour management, meaning that remand and sentenced young people were inappropriately mixing contrary to human rights requirements. Although Bimberi has conjoining cabins for young people, as recommended in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, in practice these were not used.
In relation to communication and other rights, the Commission is concerned that young people do not often participate in decision-making, and are not provided with the Resident’s Handbook which explains their rights and obligations. Some young people had their phone calls limited due to disciplinary matters, and the free phone call system to oversight bodies was not operating properly. Sometimes legal visits were postponed at short notice due to staff shortages, and there is no general visiting legal service for young people at Bimberi. Also young people complained that their clothing was not warm enough, and footwear was of low quality. The Commission recommends that CSD develop criteria and procedures for transferring young people over the age of 18 years to the AMC, in order to ensure transparency and consistency in decisionmaking, and give young people an opportunity to know their rights and put forward their views, notify advocates and be given an opportunity to appeal.
The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur has this to say about it:
“We have built a new building and it looks good from the outside but unfortunately the report confirms that not enough is being done within Bimberi, and there simply aren’t the rehabilitation programmes that young offenders need.
“The ACT Greens believe that targeted intervention works, particularly individualised plans and programs that engage those who are at most risk of re-offending. The reports’ findings support this view.
“It is critical that government takes seriously the role of rehabilitation. It is costly, but it’s a small cost to pay compared with the costs of a life-time in and out of the criminal justice system.