Teen inmates set clothes, food trays on fire during riot
EXCLUSIVE: Three of New South Wales' worst-behaved teenagers in the crisis-ridden juvenile justice system have been thrown into an adult jail as the state government moves to stop the rioting in its detention centres.
The transfer of the detainees to Silverwater jail is a controversial shift in direction for the juvenile justice system, which allows incarcerated teens to remain in a youth detention centre until they turn 21.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the ongoing crisis within the system has triggered high-level talks within Juvenile Justice NSW for a dramatic new approach to deal with the worst young detainees in the system.
The transfer of the three 18-year-olds followed a two-day rampage at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre near Gosford, which resulted in an estimated $300,000 damage to several rooms.
It is understood talks are underway about moving a fourth "adult" to a prison.
A Juvenile Justice Source said the damage bill from riots in the past financial year was $1.2 million.
While the Juvenile Justice NSW executive is legally able to forcibly transfer a detainee who's become a legal-age adult to be transferred to prison, the special powers have rarely been used.
A juvenile justice source said the last time a teenager was forcibly transferred was around three years ago when an "intractable" 17-year-old was transferred, shortly before his 18th birthday.
The proposed new policy direction will involve detainees aged 18 and over being sent to jail within 24 hours should they seriously misbehave.
A juvenile justice staffer said the approach was flagged at an Industrial Relations Commission hearing that followed a riot at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre last weekend.
The Sunday Telegraph has obtained exclusive pictures of the damage from the riot, where around 11 detainees ignited their own clothes and meal trays before throwing them at staff in a rampage that began on Sunday afternoon until officers brought the teenagers under control around 2pm Monday.
The staffer said one detainee was heard to say "let's light this place up" as the meal trays were thrown at staff.
Other inmates climbed on top of dog kennels, arming themselves with rocks, tennis racquets and sticks.
In a separate incident, an officer at Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre in Sydney's west suffered concussion, a broken nose and broken eye socket after being punched eight times by an offender.
The staffer said the system had been abused by members of Western Sydney gangs, such as "the Blacktown Boys" who had little respect for authority, at the same time as disciplinary measures had broken down.
Around 10 per cent of Juvenile Justice detainees in NSW are aged 18 or over, including six at Cobham and around 10 at Frank Baxter, the staffer said.
In some cases, the detainees had already done time in an adult jail.
"We have 18-year-olds in here who have already served time in an adult prison who have come to us because of an outstanding warrant for an offence they committed as a juvenile," the source said.
"There is no place for an 18-year-old in a juvenile facility."
A Juvenile Justice spokesman said the department was working with the Public Service Association to improve safety for staff.
This included the establishment of an Enhanced Support Unit to provide focused interventions for the most challenging detainees.
"Community safety is the highest priority of the NSW government," the spokesman said.
Public Service Association acting general secretary Troy Wright said members were not asking for the use of more force when dealing with problems but better management.