Sunday, 18 May 2008

Juvenile jails crisis: inmates turned away

THE state's juvenile justice system is so overcrowded that at least three institutions are refusing to accept any more inmates.

A leap in the number of juvenile arrests has filled available cells, leaving nowhere to place young inmates.

Police were told on Friday not to bring any more offenders to Cobham, at Werrington in Sydney's west, Reiby (Campbelltown), Riverina (Wagga Wagga) and Keelong (Unanderra) juvenile justice centres.

Emergency accommodation plans were put into action so that the largest centre, Cobham, could remain open.

A spokesman for Juvenile Justice Minister Barbara Perry confirmed that several of the state's nine centres were overcrowded.

"Some centres are experiencing a spike in admissions as a result of extensive policing operations aimed at enforcing bail conditions and outstanding warrants," he said.

"The vast majority of detainees come from the Sydney metropolitan area.

"As the state's major facility at Werrington remains unaffected and is operating normally, minimal impact on policing is expected."

The spokesman said the Department of Juvenile Justice has new facilities coming on line to meet future accommodation demands.

Senior NSW police confirmed that local area commands had been warned about the lack of accommodation at the four institutions.

The surge in arrests comes after a statewide crackdown on juvenile crime, resulting in a record number of young offenders in custody.

More than 400 juveniles are in detention across the state.

Last night police were processing arrests from the final stage of a three-month operation - Vision Three - that targetted crime, vandalism and antisocial behaviour in and around the rail network.

At least 460 people were also arrested last weekend during a blitz on outstanding warrants.

Police Minister David Campbell said yesterday that officers were "ramping up their high-visibility operations".

"There are more police crime blitzes being planned and I expect the good results to continue," Mr Campbell said.


Why you got stuck: Operation Avert
Police today revealed why thousands were stuck for more than four hours in a Sydney traffic jam yesterday while a shot was fired during a chase. It was all part of Operation Avert, a major three-day police action that led to 460 arrests, including more than 200 for outstanding warrants and 55 for breach of bail. Some 640 charges were laid.

Juvenile detainees sharing single cells
SEVERE overcrowding in the state's juvenile detention centres is forcing young people to share cells designed for one person, to sleep on mattresses on the floor and be held in "segregation" rooms usually used as punishment cells.

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