April 14. 2024. 7:32

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Australian boy (13) kept in solitary confinement for at least 45 days

A 13-year-old First Nations boy remanded for minor criminal offences was reportedly kept in total solitary confinement in an Australian youth detention centre for at least 45 days.

It is understood the boy also claimed that on one occasion he was denied drinking water at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland (CYDC), after he became distressed during a prolonged period in isolation and flooded the cell.

From February 1st, he spent 22 days straight entirely in solitary confinement and was only allowed to leave his cell on five days during a two-month detention.

Courts have raised human rights concerns about the extent of isolation in the CYDC and described the conditions as “cruel” and “inappropriate”.

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The boy was initially arrested in October 2022 in relation to a fight with another boy.

In January 2023, he was arrested for further offences including property offences and attempted unauthorised use of a motor vehicle.

He was released after being formally reprimanded in the children’s court last week, with his probation order extended by a month.

Despite not receiving a custodial sentence, however, the boy spent a total of 60 days imprisoned on remand, including six days in adult watch houses and 54 days at CYDC.

The boy’s treatment in the facility is the most extreme of several recent cases.

Queensland’s parliament is debating new youth justice laws this week, including plans to override the Human Rights Act and criminalise bail breaches by children.

Experts warn the plan will cause the population of young detainees to “explode” and heighten human rights concerns in a youth justice system already showing signs of buckling.

At one point, more than 80 children from Australian youth facilities were being warehoused in adult public watch houses. The CYDC has also been subject to chronic staff shortages, resulting in prolonged “blackout” periods where children are not allowed to leave their cells.

Most children imprisoned in the Queensland youth justice system are on remand. Those numbers have increased significantly since the introduction of 2019 bail laws, which reversed the presumption in favour of bail in cases where there is an “unacceptable risk” to community safety.

In practice, that has meant dozens of children have been sent to prison – unsentenced – in cases where their alleged offending was not serious enough to warrant a period of imprisonment at sentence. – Guardian