• Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre near Perth in 2013. (AAP)Source: AAP
A year after officers in riot gear were sent into the WA youth detention centre, the mother of a teenager says her son is still being held in the isolated unit as punishment.
By
Rangi Hirini

7 May 2018 - 3:03 PM  UPDATED 7 May 2018 - 5:16 PM

It has been a long year for Jason and his mother Kylee Douglas who have been campaigning for Jason to be released from the isolated unit or moved to an adult prison.

After a group of teenagers being held in Banksia Hill Detention Centre were involved in a disturbance - destroying property over a number of hours - in May last year, Jason was one of three boys to be locked away in the Intensive Support Unit (ISU).

Jason and the other two, who have both since been removed from isolation, reached out to Amnesty International last year over the conditions they were being held in.

An independent investigation is looking into the claims that Jason was subjected to degrading treatment and excessive use of force. This included having to do his daily exercise inside a cage, bedding being withheld as a privilege to be earned, and having to kneel for food.

He has also alleged he was held in conditions akin to solitary confinement for at least two weeks. 

In a statement to NITV News, Amnesty International described the ISU as "largely a punishment unit - isolated from the general population of children in Banksia Hill youth prison".

"Amnesty International has been informed that, within that unit, his room is a cell the size of a car parking space."

Jason’s mother has been campaigning alongside Amnesty to free her son. 

“I do understand the seriousness of what the boys did," Ms Douglas told NITV, "but they’re all facing charges in a court of law." 

"So I don’t understand why a year in an isolation unit, I mean who sanctions that, who says that it’s okay to punish a child, over and over again,” she said.

She and her son believe the lengthy stay in the ISU is because he had been unfairly singled out as a ringleader.

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'He doesn’t say much but his eyes are very ruined, his voice is very different, there is no confidence, there is no self-esteem,’ says the mother of one of the three detainees (one Maori, two Aboriginal) who remained in the isolation unit at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre for more than 300 days, according to Amnesty International.

Ms Douglas lives in Kalgoorlie - 600 kilometres east from the detention centre Perth, and travels to visit her son once a month.

“I think when as a mother you find out that your child has not only been subjected to those sorts of things and the treatment that he has received, you as mum, I feel like I’ve failed," she said.

Amnesty International Australia has called for the ISU centre at Banksia Hill to be shut while the allegations are investigated.

Amnesty's Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon said in a statement in March the WA government should learn from the Don Dale controversy and look to closing down Banskia Hill Detention Centre altogether.

He said the WA's high rate of overrepresentation of Indigenous children in detention is relevant.

“This teenager is of Maori background, and the discrimination that Maori kids face in the ‘injustice’ system is the same as facing Aboriginal kids. They are targeted because they are First Nations people," Mr Dillon said in a statement.

Jason’s mother said she wants the government to change their approach to juvenile detention.

“I’d have a lot of things to say to them but I think my biggest thing would be, not only have they every child they put into these facilities but they have destroyed families alongside them,” she said.

'Restored faith in humanity'

Over the last six months, Kylee’s campaign has gained support from the Aboriginal community with protests and rallies held around the country. Former Don Dale detainee, Dylan Voller, has also spoken in support for Jason.

“I can't even put into words how moving and heartwarming it is. The support we’ve had from Aboriginal Australia, in particular, has been something I didn’t even know existed,” Ms Douglas said.

“I have small restored faith in humanity, knowing that there are people that don’t condone treating children this way.”

She said the last year has been hard on the whole family.

“It’s been really horrible for all the kids, Jason does have a 10-year-old sister and a 13-year-old brother that I have tried to protect them from all of this,” she said.

A spokesperson for West Australia’s Department of Justice told NITV News in a statement they could not comment on the specific case, but did say those involved in the May 4 and May 5 incidents in 2017 were referred to police for charges.

“Some young people at Banksia Hill have complex needs or require targeted care, support and intervention, as a result of being at risk of harm to themselves or others, and may be accommodated in the facility’s Intensive Support Unit (ISU),” the statement said.

"Young people in the ISU also have access to recreation, education, programs, daily activities and other services outside the unit. They have access to the same privileges as other young people and participate in a structured day from 7:30am to 7:00pm."

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