Royal commission hears of abuse at juvenile detention center

Dylan Voller testified in December 2016 before the Northern Territory royal commission concerning the abuse he allegedly suffered while at the Don Dale detention center. I previously wrote about Voller’s situation, which came to light during the summer. Several videos taken from security cameras showed some of the abuse Voller experienced. However, it was footage showing Voller strapped to a restraint chair that broke the story.

The Australian government did its best to respond to the coverage, primarily by trying to minimize what was seen in the videos. As previously mentioned in those posts, there were prior reports of abuse at the Don Dale center and other juvenile facilities. The Northern Territory appears to have a higher rate of this abuse, particularly against Aboriginal youths.

The royal commission was held in an attempt to get a better insight into what the victims claim happened. Voller offered the following testimony:

Voller alleged guards charged detainees “rent” for staying at Don Dale, taking $1.5o a day from money the detainees had earned through good behaviour.

He also said he was forced to defecate into a pillowcase after guards at the Alice Springs juvenile facility refused to let him out of his cell to go to the toilet during the night. He said detainees would repeatedly be forced to urinate through the cell bars.

He was first strip-searched at about the age of 11 or 12, he said, and it would occur every time he was moved between facilities or in and out of isolation cells, or when he coming back from the bathroom because he had been throwing toilet paper at cameras to cover the screen.

Voller also alleged officers repeatedly stripped him of clothes and bedding for hours as a form of punishment, and denied him food and water.

One youth justice officer at Alice Springs noticed he was hungry in the middle of one night and threw muesli bars and fruit through to his cell, Voller said.

It did not stop there. Continue reading

Dylan Voller’s mother regrets calling police

I recently wrote about the torture juvenile inmate Dylan Voller suffered in an Australian juvenile detention center. The story went viral and spawned an investigation into the abuse committed in the detention center. It also prompted protests against the torture and  international condemnation.

While some responded to the news stories with outrage, many were unsympathetic to Dylan’s abuse. They argued that Dylan either would not have been in the position to be abused or somehow deserved as a result of his criminal behavior. I noted in my first post that Dylan Voller is hardly an angel. He has been in and out of jail since he was 12, and his most recent crime involved a drug-fueled crime spree culminating in a violent assault.

Yet much of prison abuse happened prior to that crime spree. It also appears that outside of that last offense the worst Dylan has done is throw things at people, break objects, spit at guards, and threaten to hurt himself. None of those appear to justify the cruelty the guards used against Dylan.

They do, however, hint at a broader issue with Dylan. It is one that I suspected as I watched the videos of the guards abusing him. Dylan’s mother confirmed my suspicions in a recent interview. Joanne Voller told reports that she now regrets calling the authorities on her son.

She explained that Dylan attended at least five different schools in three years due to his behavior. She eventually contacted the NT Department of Children and Families services after her son broke a window. They told her that her son would receive the help he needed if she reported him. Instead, Dylan ended up in spending more time in jail than outside. Joanne stated: Continue reading

The fallout over Australia’s torture of juvenile prisoners

The torture of Dylan Voller brought international attention after media outlets showed footage of repeated assaults against Voller, the most recent involving guarding strapping the then 17 year old into a restraint stair. In each instance Voller shows no signs of resistance, and reports suggest that at best he spat on guards and threatened to harm himself. None of his actions appear to justify the level of force used against him, nor do they explain the repeated instances of force over the years.

Voller told his lawyer that he now fears for his safety following the media coverage: Continue reading

The Torture of Dylan Voller

Few things enrage me as much as prisoner abuse, particularly the abuse of child inmates. I will entertain no excuse for it. I feel no sympathy for the guards to commit the abuse. I do not care what the child did prior to the abuse happening.

You do not get to torture children.

Yet this is something that most countries allow when they imprison children. A recent case in Australia shows frequently this occurs.

Guards at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre repeatedly stripped, choked, and restrained Dylan Voller over the several years he was imprisoned at the facility. His abuse has only been taken seriously due to the release of a video showing guards strapping Voller into a restraint chair, which they left him in for two hours:

It is part of a chilling catalogue of vision released for the first time showing the repeated stripping, assault and mistreatment of the boy, who was one of six children tear-gassed at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin in 2014.

The boy in the chair is Dylan Voller, who was a detainee at the Youth Detention Centre in Alice Springs at the time.

The footage, along with other instances of mistreatment highlighted on Four Corners, prompted Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs to call for a formal inquiry.

On the day of the incident, he was transferred to the adult prison and strapped into the chair for almost two hours after threatening to hurt himself so that he would be taken to hospital.

In the vision, Mr Voller, who is handcuffed and hooded, is being ordered by guards to walk backwards, hunched over, into an isolation cell before asking the guards why his mattress was taken away, telling them he has been treated like a dog.

Prison officers on duty can be heard saying Mr Voller had misbehaved by chewing on his mattress and threatening to break his hand.

The guards offered an explanation for their actions: Continue reading