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Minister "acted on available preliminary advice" when making inaccurate comment regarding death in custody

Jarred Cross -

Western Australia's Minister for Corrective Services Paul Papalia has given no indication Unit 18 at Perth's Casuarina Prison will be shut down following the death of 16-year-old Cleveland Dodd in October.

On Monday, the ABC reported alleged circumstances on the evening Cleveland took his own life at the facility; including details related to the time it took an officer to find him unresponsive in his cell after Cleveland warned of his intentions over intercom, that the same officer was not equipped with a radio to immediately inform others of the situation, and that CCTV surveillance of Cleveland's cell had not been available for hours.

Cleveland died at hospital one week later

The report was at odds with Minister Papalia's earlier comment at a press conference that it was "only a matter of minutes from that moment that he was checked and found to be unresponsive and the officer commenced resuscitation".

On Monday the Minister said: "In the hours following the attempted suicide of Cleveland Dodd, I acted on available preliminary advice provided to my office."

"At the time, I acknowledged that information would be subject to an internal investigation to establish a more detailed and accurate account of events," he said.

"That inquiry continues - as does a coronial inquest and CCC investigation – and therefore I am unable to comment further at this time."

The Minister says action has been taken at Unit 18.

"We have significantly increased staff at Unit 18 to improve out-of-cell hours and service delivery," he said.

The unit has been subject to high-levels of scrutiny.

Following Cleveland's death, Amnesty International Australia said WA Premier Roger Cook and Corrective Services Minister Paul Papalia "ignored repeated warnings" that the children incarcerated at Unit 18 experience "intolerable levels of distress, putting their safety at risk".

No plans for its closure have been outlined.

"Unit 18 is currently the only location available to house the State's most challenging, complex and often dangerous youth detainees," Minister Papalia said.

"Returning Unit 18 detainees to Banksia Hill would be disruptive and unsafe for staff and other young people in youth detention.

The Minister also pointed to improvements at Banksia Hill, which has also been subject to criticism by justice experts including the current and former WA Children's Court presidents and Inspectors of Custodial Services.

"Conditions at Banksia Hill Detention Centre have dramatically improved since we announced a range of measures to enhance safety and welfare in June. Detainees are spending more time out of cell, accessing education and other services."

The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association, the union representing youth custodial officers at Unit 18, released their own statement on Monday.

"The CCC investigation, coronial enquiry and departmental investigations will all thoroughly investigate this devastating incident and the events preceding it. The union encourages all parties to respect the process of the various investigations so that all are afforded procedural fairness and natural justice," a CPSU/CSA spokesperson said.

"Our members will continue to advocate for systems, resources and approaches that maximise the safety, and better enable the genuine rehabilitation, of young people in custody in WA."

In late October, WA Corrective Services Commissioner Mike Reynolds was replaced by Brad Royce, an assistant commissioner from WA Police


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