Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in February before the full extent of the juvenile detention crisis became known.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in February before the full extent of the juvenile detention crisis became known.

Secret war room to fix juvenile detention crisis

A ROOM inside the Government's tower of power - originally designed for press conferences - has been turned into a war room filled with senior bureaucrats trying to fix the youth detention crisis gripping the state.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the room on level one inside 1 William St has been converted into a high-powered nerve centre tasked with reforming the state's beleaguered justice system amid prison overcrowding, a stretched court system and the widening youth justice crisis.

It is understood deputy director-general Christine Castley was hand-picked by the Department of Premier and Cabinet last year to lead a team of senior bureaucrats from the departments of corrective services, justice and child safety to fix the mess.

But the Government has kept their work under wraps.

The Queensland Government’s “tower of power”, where a team of bureaucrats are bunkered down trying to fix the youth detention crisis.
The Queensland Government’s “tower of power”, where a team of bureaucrats are bunkered down trying to fix the youth detention crisis.

The revelation comes as Labor faced another day of intense grilling yesterday over the overcrowded youth detention centres that have forced children as young as 10 to be housed in adult watch houses.

The Opposition devoted nearly the entire Question Time to the crisis again yesterday, probing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and senior ministers over how long they had known about shocking claims of juveniles being held in isolation for days and weeks on end, having their fingers chopped off in doors and put in cells with paedophiles.

Ms Palaszczuk revealed 75 children remained inside adult watch houses yesterday however could not provide a timeline for when the crisis would end.

Youth Minister Di Farmer says the new beds won’t arrive until late 2020. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Youth Minister Di Farmer says the new beds won’t arrive until late 2020. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Youth Minister Di Farmer said on Monday that she expected the crisis would extend at least until the second half of next year as 48 new beds promised for youth detention centres at a cost of $177 million needed to be built.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington called for all children to be moved out of watch houses within 72 hours and placed in appropriate accommodation.

"It defies belief that in Queensland we have laws that prevent adults from remaining in prison for over 21 days but we don't have any laws that protect the children," she said.

Ms Frecklington has been pushing for overflow juveniles to be housed in temporary housing within youth detention centres until the new beds are built.

"Anywhere is better than where they are," she said.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington wants new laws to ensure juveniles can’t be held in watch houses for longer than 72 hours.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington wants new laws to ensure juveniles can’t be held in watch houses for longer than 72 hours.

Ms Palaszczuk said findings from previous royal commissions had shown temporary accommodation did not work so the Government would not be going down that path.

But she insisted the Government was doing all it could.

"Of course everyone is shocked. No one wants to see young people in watch houses for longer than is necessary. Absolutely, 100 per cent. That is why we are putting in $550 million," she said.

"We don't control the number of young people who commit offences in this state.

"Let me also say there are some serious offences of young people in the watch houses at the moment. We are talking about armed robbery. We are talking about assault.

"The Opposition's answer is to let them out. I would like to let them out if they were going into secure places. We do not have those secure places available."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in February before the full extent of the juvenile detention crisis became known.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in February before the full extent of the juvenile detention crisis became known.

Ms Palaszczuk has also tasked her director-general Rachel Hunter to investigate serious issues involving children kept in watchhouses.

Separate investigations into the prisons and parole system are also under way by the Queensland Productivity Commission and the Sentencing Advisory Council with both final reports due in August.


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