A new child detention crisis is explored on FOUR CORNERS

Four Corners
Source: ABC Network

Inside the Watch House: Kids behind bars

“This is a concrete pen, designed to hold adults in an acute and dangerous state… what are we doing to children who are being held (here)?” Children’s advocate

It’s almost three years since Four Corners exposed shocking revelations of mistreatment in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale youth detention centre in Australia’s Shame, sparking a Royal Commission. 

Now the program is set to reveal a new child detention crisis in another part of Australia, where children as young as 10 have been held alongside adult criminals in maximum security facilities.

“The most dangerous people in Australia go in those watch houses. They’re in there for murder. There’s paedophiles.”  Human rights advocate

With exclusive access, the program goes behind the locked cell doors to reveal how young people, most of whom have not yet been convicted of a crime, are being held, sometimes for weeks at a time.

“Seeing kids peeping out of the cell doors, out of the little cell hatches that they put the food on…. and they'll just say…‘Miss, tell them that I want to talk to mum’."   Child protection monitor

These facilities can be tough and terrifying places for hardened adult offenders, let alone children.

“We’ve had young people in the watch house that have tried to commit suicide.” Senior police officer

The pressure of managing these children is taking its toll on everyone involved.

“I’ve been informed that some police officers last only two hours in the watch house environment. It is highly traumatic.”  Children’s advocate

Those at the coal face of this crisis say it’s time to speak out.

“This is a failure on the part of the government to meet the most basic protections of young people.”  Anti-Discrimination Commissioner

Inside the Watch House, reported by Mark Willacy, goes to air on Monday 13th May at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 14th May at 1.00pm and Wednesday 15th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.

FOUR CORNERS - INSIDE THE WATCH HOUSE - Monday 13 May 2019