The report describes frequent and increasing incidents of isolation in youth custody at Parkville, Malmsbury and Grevillia, where children and young people have been secluded from others and confined for extended periods without access to fresh air, education and, in some instances, toilet facilities.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission encouraged the Victorian government to promptly consider the report's 21 recommendations on the use of isolation, separation, lockdowns and minimising harm to children and young people.
"This comprehensive report is critical at a time when the youth justice system is being reviewed," Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said.
"We have previously stated the imperative that human rights informs and guides policy and practice in the youth justice system. Our youth justice system must ensure the rehabilitation of young people while upholding community safety.
"These latest reports are distressing. In some cases children and young people were isolated from their peers and the routine of the centre for weeks at a time, when we know that the misuse of isolation can lead to psychological damage.
"The inappropriate use of isolation breaches children's rights to humane treatment and protection in their best interests. Isolation must never occur as a form of punitive behaviour management or as a result of staff shortages or inadequate staff training.
"Many of the children in our youth justice system have a history of abuse, neglect, mental health concerns or have an intellectual disability. The harmful effects of isolation and confinement are even more acute for such children who have particular vulnerabilities and associated complex needs.
"The report also highlights the over-representation of Aboriginal children being isolated who carry particular acute risks of harm.
"I encourage the Victorian Government to give prompt consideration to the recommendations and, in reviewing the youth justice framework, ensure it is underpinned by human rights principles and protects children's best interests."
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