Indigenous Youth's Death Exposes Cruelty of Solitary Confinement in West Australian Prisons
October 25, 2023
Cited article from Human Rights Watch
HRRC advocates for ending the practice of solitary confinement for children in detention. This urgency comes in the wake of the tragic death of a 16-year-old First Nations boy in pretrial detention in a West Australian prison, highlighting the dire need for reform in the youth justice system.
A 16-year-old First Nations boy tragically died by self-harm last Thursday while in pretrial detention at Unit 18 in Casuarina Prison, a maximum security facility for adult men in West Australia. His lawyers had pleaded with the government to move him, as he spent most of his time in solitary confinement, sometimes not being allowed out of his cell at all. The boy's death has devastated his family, who emphasized that he had no history of self-harm prior to his detention in Unit 18. The unit was established as a temporary solution to house young individuals while the state's juvenile center, Banksia Hill, was under repair. However, both Unit 18 and Banksia Hill have faced severe criticism for subjecting young detainees, particularly indigenous ones, to harmful conditions, including prolonged solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement, especially for children, has long been condemned by human rights organizations. Reports from Human Rights Watch and the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody highlighted the severe psychological impact of isolation, often leading to self-harm. It is imperative that the West Australia state government immediately cease the practice of solitary confinement for young detainees.