Through our questions in the Corrective Services Budget Estimates it was revealed that in the last two years there have been at least 13 instances of children being held in solitary confinement for periods of more than 24 hours.
The Minister for Corrections and the Director of Juvenile Justice also made clear that they had never heard of two United Nations instruments preventing the use of such punishment on children.
The 2015 UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) Rule 45 prohibits the use of solitary confinement and similar measures on children. The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty Rule 67 states ‘all disciplinary measures constituting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment shall be strictly prohibited, including placement in a dark cell, closed or solitary confinement’
The use of punishment on children that is clearly outside the internationally accepted standard must not be tolerated. We must never hold children in solitary confinement as a form of punishment as this constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
“The Greens MP David Shoebridge focused questioning in the committee on the use of solitary confinement of juveniles, which eventually led Elliott and the most senior correctional officer, the director of juvenile justice Melanie Hawyes, to concede there were 13 instances in the last two years that detainees under the age of 18 had been held in solitary confinement.
Elliott took on notice a question from Shoebridge about the proportion of Indigenous children in juvenile detention that had been held in solitary but said 54% of the total juvenile population in NSW were Indigenous.
Shoebridge said the government’s lack of understanding of the United Nations rules was extraordinary.
“Children should never be held in solitary confinement as a form of punishment, ever,” he told Guardian Australia. “Given the abuses we have seen in other jurisdictions there needs to be a united call to end this practice immediately in NSW juvenile detention facilities. International law prohibits the practice, equating it with psychological torture.”