Police search for two men on the run after breaking out of Malmsbury Youth Justice Center – Michmutters

Police search for two men on the run after breaking out of Malmsbury Youth Justice Center

Two young men are on the run after breaking out of the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre, north-west of Melbourne.

Police are asking the public for assistance in finding 22-year-old Shamus Touhy and 19-year-old Matthew Piscopo.

They broke out of the Mollison Street youth justice facility at around 11:44pm on Saturday.

Malmsbury staff told the ABC the men escaped through the roof and workers did not realize they were missing until Sunday morning.

Police said the men were known to frequent the Ballarat area.

Detective Inspector Juliann Goldrick said police were searching for the men and residents should not approach them.

“These men are not believed to be violent, however members of the public are advised not to approach either,” Ms Goldrick said.

Touhy has red hair and Piscopo has a long tattoo of a rose on his left hand.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The breakout comes after a string of violent attacks and ongoing concerns about safety in the troubled youth justice centre.

Head counts may have been missed

A daily briefing report seen by the ABC confirmed staff did not discover the escape until the following morning.

“Matthew Piscopo and Shamus Touhy breached the roof space from their bedrooms in the admissions unit and exited via a plant room door,” it stated.

“The young men exited the precinct and this was discovered during the morning unlock.”

Sign outside the Malmsbury Youth Justice Center in central Victoria.
The prison sent an email to staff reminding them to properly conduct head counts.(abcnews)

Following the breakout, the executive director of youth justice operations sent out an email to staff about the importance of nightly headcounts.

“During the night, checks need to be visual and ensure the young person is present in their room,” the email said.

“Please note that strict adherence to the client accounts and observations is expected by all staff.

“If circumstances arise that disrupt staff ability to adhere to these requirements … the unit supervisor, unit manager/night manager must work with staff to address the issue in the most immediate and safest way possible.”

Some staff who received this email said the nightly headcount was likely not conducted properly.

They said the admissions unit where this occurred had since been closed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Community Safety said how the men escaped from the facility was being reviewed.

“Any escape is taken very seriously, and the safety of the community is of paramount concern,” they said.

“The young people are not considered dangerous.”

Staff levels ‘extremely dangerous’

The ABC has confirmed that youth justice staff have repeatedly told center management in recent weeks that staffing levels were “extremely dangerous.”

The ABC understands staff were left alone in secure units with young people out of their cells, despite recent mandated supervision ratios requiring one staff member to three young people.

In the past six weeks, staff have reported being assaulted, threatened, spat on, and having suspected urine thrown at them. One young man threw hot water and honey at another inmate which landed on the side of a staff member’s face.

Another staff member witnessed a young person being seriously assaulted by two young men who stomped on him and kicked him in the head while he was on the ground.

Youth justice sources told the ABC staff morale was low, and workers felt their safety concerns were going unheard.

There was a mass breakout from Malmsbury in 2017, but police captured all 15 young people.

Michele Berry, who worked at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Center for 25 years, witnessed the 2017 riots and escapes.

Michele Berry sits on a chair and leans on the back while looking away from the camera.
Michele Berry said she was unsurprised people were breaking out of Malmsbury again.(ABC News: Michael Barnet)

She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Department of Justice because she was declared unfit to work.

She said she was unsurprised by the latest escape.

“It was like… not again,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“The admissions unit is a pretty secure unit, except for the ceiling. They’re able to get through the plaster and then through the roof.

“They make up their beds to make out that they’re asleep and then the officers tick that they’re present inside the unit.”

She said when she worked there, the number of staff supervising young people at night was too low.

“We’re not staffing it correctly,” she said.


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