Routine semi-naked searches to cease at youth justice centre

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Last Friday marked a significant milestone for the dignity of children and young people in SA’s youth justice centre with the commencement of the use of full body scanners and the end of routine semi-naked searches.

Over the last two years our office has worked hard to advocate for the end of semi-naked searches, including the controversial use of ‘squat and cough’. These searches were routinely used when a child or young person was admitted to the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre, was returning from court or hospital, after visits from their family and friends, or were suspected of being in possession of an illegal or banned item.

The new scanners will be able to detect a broader range of banned items than previous devices and will limit the use of semi-naked searches to be used only as a last resort, bringing SA’s practices in line with other states and territories.

In our latest report, Great Responsibility: Report on the 2019 Pilot Inspection of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre), data shows that over a 12-month period, approximately 1087 semi-naked searches were conducted, which is an average of three per day. This practice is especially culturally inappropriate for Initiated Aboriginal men.

“As Training Centre Visitor, my staff and I have been working hard to see the use of this humiliating and undignified search method reduced, or abolished,” Penny Wright, Training Centre Visitor and Guardian for Children and Young People said.

“This really is a huge win for the rights and dignity of children and young people detained at Kurlana Tapa,” Penny said.

A young person in detention told us this week it was ‘good news’ semi-naked searches would no longer be routinely undertaken. Some staff also said the new scanners were a positive step in the treatment of the young people. We hope to get more feedback from young people over time as they experience the new technology.

We congratulate the Department of Human Services for introducing the scanners to the justice centre and for having the safety and dignity of the children and young people at the forefront when reviewing the centre’s practices.

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