Victorian youth justice management rejected internal recommendations to upgrade the security of the unit two young men escaped from at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Center over the weekend, the ABC has learned.
- The ABC understands concerns were raised in 2019 about the risk of escape from the roof of the admissions unit
- Two young men who escaped from the unit over the weekend were arrested by police on Monday
- Staff have reported concerns about dangerous staffing levels at the youth prison
Two young men smashed through the plaster ceiling of their cells in the admissions unit and escaped through the roof cavity of the youth prison north-west of Melbourne on Saturday night.
They were caught by police on Monday.
The 22-year-old escapee will face court on Tuesday after he was arrested in Corio, near Geelong, while the 19-year-old was sent to adult prison and will face court again in September.
The unit is not surrounded by a secure fence.
The ABC understands concerns were raised in 2019 about poor security of the admissions unit, which is an older building in the precinct.
Internal recommendations were made to upgrade security and infrastructure of the unit, including the ceiling and roof due to risk of escape.
The ABC understands the recommendations were ultimately rejected by management.
The ABC has reported extensively on serious assaults of staff and young people at Malmsbury.
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.
Staff have reported concerns about dangerously low staffing levels. Despite supervision ratios mandating one staff member to three young people, the ABC understands staff were left alone in secure prisoners with out of their cells.
Last month, two young people attempted to escape the Malmsbury precinct while being escorted by staff but were stopped.
The ABC understands general manager Trudy O’Connor resigned four weeks ago.
Windows covered during headcounts
Sources have also told the ABC young people regularly cover their windows during head checks.
They said management allowed this, despite staff warnings about not being able to see young people during head checks.
It is not clear if this contributed to Saturday’s escape, but staff have told the ABC that management was reluctant to challenge young people about covering the viewing windows, in a bid to “keep the peace.”
The Department of Justice declined to answer the ABC’s questions and said it was investigating the circumstances of the escape.
“Any escape is taken very seriously, and the safety of the community is of paramount concern,” a spokesperson said.
“The young people [who escaped on the weekend] are not considered dangerous.”