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Solitary confinement ban urged in wake of damning WA youth jail report

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The shocking findings out of WA's Banksia Hill youth detention facility brought before parliament on Tuesday have sparked renewed calls to end solitary confinement in Australia.

In his report, inspector Eamon Ryan said there had been 24 suicide attempts at Banksia Hill between January and November last year.

He found there had been several days in November where four detainees spent less than an hour outside of their cells in breach of United Nations human rights protocols which are not legally enforced in WA.

Save the Children Australia state director Noelene Swanson said the finding was a complete failure of the state to care for children and called for the eradication of solitary confinement across the country.

"The management and care of these children must be trauma informed and evidence based... we are failing these children if reform is not urgently undertaken."

Ms Swanson's sentiment was echoed by Australian Lawyers Alliance's Greg Barns, who said the trauma-inducing conditions outlined in the report could leave the WA government open to compensation claims for the mental and physical injury.

Following the report, the WA Department of Justice detailed a new operating model "in line with child-safe practices".

It includes case planning tailored to specific needs of different cohorts within the facility as well as engagement programs to fosted a sense of normality for youths in the facility.

This WA government allocated $25.1 million to Banksia Hill in the May budget, part of which will go towards a new crisis care centre.

New recreation areas and anti-climb fences will also be installed to allow more use of open space.

Amnesty International Australia Indigenous rights advisor and Palawa Elder Rodney Dillon said spending more money "locking children up" was not the answer.

"These kids need our help to get back on track, not to be sent to places that harden their trauma into life-long calluses," he said.

Amnesty has campaigned to end solitary confinement in Australia since 2018.

Story by James Italia-Prasad


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