Justice staff talk about ordeals

MALMSBURY Youth Justice Centre staff say the centre is a dangerous place to work and that clients who assault staff go unpunished.

A current employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said staff were frequently abused and threatened by their clients - young, male offenders.

The worker said that in any other context young men who committed violent acts would be charged with an offence but instead clients were given numerous warnings before any such action was taken.

"There are no consequences for bad behaviour so bad behaviour becomes the norm," the worker said.

The worker said the categories of reporting incidents had changed 18 months ago and that while it may appear assaults against staff had declined, in their experience that wasn't the case.

The worker said they had been severely beaten many times at the centre and that incidents had increased in recent times.

They said staff morale was at an all-time low.

"I feel unsafe every day," the worker said.

A former employee at the centre echoed the current employee's complaints.

He said there was a community expectation that people who committed acts of violence were sent to prison.

“These young guys are assaulting staff members and they’re not getting sent to prison," he said.

"What do you think that does to the families of the staff?

"Where else in the world do you go to work to be bashed?"

He said it wasn't just the physical assaults that affected staff but also the threats made against them.

"They (the clients) say, 'I know where you live and I'm going to rape your daughter'," he said.

"If a lot of these people's victims knew what was happening in there they would be appalled."

The former employee said workers wanted a policy whereby if a client physically assaulted a staff member they would be immediately referred to the parole board.

But in an email Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said that since her government came to power there had been a 79 per cent decrease in client-to-client incidents and a 68 per cent reduction in client-to-staff incidents. 

She said the department was continuing to make improvements to eliminate health and safety risks.

The Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre is for men aged 18 - 20 who have committed a crime but are deemed too vulnerable for adult prison.

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