A guard allows a dog to approach a girl in an aggressive manner at Cleveland detention centre, August 2015.
A guard allows a dog to approach a girl in an aggressive manner at Cleveland detention centre, August 2015.

Queensland 'worst in Australia for locking up kids'

QUEENSLAND is the worst state in Australia for locking up children under 12 years old while a new Amnesty International report has found shocking cases of abuse.

The report looks at practices at detention centres in Townsville and Brisbane.

Amnesty said there were more than 1000 pages detailing abuse, including the use of dogs, invasive search techniques, and mechanical devices including helmets with spit masks.

 Queensland had the country's highest proportion of 10 and 11-year-old children being locked up, the ABC reported.

Amnesty International Director Claire Mallinson said the practice breached international law.

"...These are little kids, who most of them are probably thinking about their first sleepover, not being sent to a detention centre.

Amnesty said on an average day in 2015, 89 per cent of children in Townsville's youth detention centre were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

"One incident at CYDC in January 2013 involved a 17-year-old boy identified as being at a high suicide risk.

"When he refused to return to his room and sat on a bench with his arms folded, 14 staff responded to the situation.

"Several staff members held him down on the floor, putting him in handcuffs and legcuffs. They then took the child to a tiny isolation cell where they cut his clothing and underpants off with a knife.

"The boy was left naked in the cell for over an hour, before being given a gown to wear."

Other incidents outlined in the documents include:

Use of dogs. In 2014, a child on a roof threatened to self-harm or suicide by hanging. A security guard and his dog were deployed to the scene, which was found to increase the young person's anxiety.

In August 2015, a guard allowed an un-muzzled dog to approach an Indigenous girl in an "aggressive manner" while she was attempting to get out of a pool.

Amnesty International has documented the use of dogs to instil fear into prisoners as a torture method used around the world.

Solitary confinement. In March 2012 eight Indigenous children were held in isolation for 10 days in "near-continuous cell confinement" (approximately 22 hours a day).

For the first two days of isolation, they were not allowed to leave their rooms at all.

Frequent attempts at self harm or suicide, particularly at Townsville. According to the documents, last year saw 31 incidents of children in CYDC attempting suicide by "tying ligatures around their necks".

This number rose from 20 instances in 2014, Amnesty said.

Partially clothed searches, during which children were asked to squat, with young girls asked to lift their breasts and young boys to lift their genitals prior to squatting - despite practices of squatting and lifting being prohibited in adult prisons.

Amnesty International called on the Government to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, making it illegal to send the younger children to detention.

There were 49 children aged 17 years old were being held in Queensland's adult prisons at the start of August.

"Queensland is the only state in Australia that is jailing 17-year-olds in adult prisons," she said.

It comes after a video was published by The Courier-Mail of a 17-year-old with a helmet and a spit mask over his head in the Brisbane Correctional Centre in Wacol in 2013.

The Queensland government said it had already taken steps to address issues raised, including the use of dogs.

It was working on plans to take 17-year-old offenders out of adult jails.

But there were concerns raised that putting older youth in with younger offenders in juvenile facilities may prove a threat to them.

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