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‘Somebody is going to die’: Youth justice whistleblower reveals crisis in Victorian youth prisons

On Friday, the Department of Justice and Community Safety revealed that one-in-four youth justice workers, front-line juvenile prison staff, have left the job this financial year.

The shocking staff retention figure comes after an attack at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre last Thursday left a worker with a fractured eye socket and cheekbone.

A worker in the youth prison system, Craig (not his real name), said he’s not surprised by the staff turnover rate.

“The reason people are leaving is because the work space is so toxic and dangerous,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“Staff don’t feel safe going to work, and we feel like we’ve just been forgotten about.”

Craig said worker assaults have become much more common in recent times.

“When I first came into the system some years ago, you got the odd assault here and there, but it’s every day now,” he said.

“Youth justice is out of control, and our senior management are doing nothing about it.

“Somebody is going to die, and then maybe the government might actually do something.”

Craig said staff are discouraged from reporting abuse.

“We’re told, when they abuse you or threaten you, to not make a report because it’s too much trouble, they didn’t mean it, we’ll get them to apologise to you.

“Then the same thing happens the next day.”

He said a two-pronged approach, encouraging rehabilitation and strengthening punishments for bad behaviour, is needed to bring staff assault levels down.

“If people think that people are going into youth justice to be rehabilitated, think again folks. It’s not happening. We’re not offering them anything worthwhile,” he said.

“Not only that, there needs to be consequences for their actions. If someone assaults a staff member they’re being taken to their room … and left to cool down for 45 minutes.

“To assault a staff member is like a badge of honour.”
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