Darwin: Teenagers escape prison cells

14 September: Two teenagers escaped from their cells at the new prison in Darwin’s rural area but did not get out of the prison precinct. Police said the 16 and 15-year-old males broke out of their cells around 3:00am and were found sitting on the roof of the prison. Duty Superintendent Rob Burgoyne said the pair came down from the roof after an hour and were returned to their cells.

The NT Government decided to move juveniles out of the Don Dale juvenile detention centre after a break-out in August, when five teenagers escaped, with two remaining on the run for almost four days.

A few weeks later tear gas was used against six teenagers who escaped their cells, armed themselves with glass and smashed windows and light fittings. Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook said he believed the teenagers, aged between 14 and 17 years, were protesting being placed in the secure unit after five of them had escaped earlier.

“I think they were trying to create as much damage as they possibly could to disable those cells so that they couldn’t be kept there,” he said.

After that, juvenile offenders were transferred temporarily to the mental health facility at the new $500 million prison at Holtze on the city’s outskirts.

In the wake of the break-out the NT Government announced plans to turn the old Berrimah prison into a juvenile detention centre after adult prisoners are transferred to Holtze.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency has argued strongly that a purpose-built facility is required for young offenders rather than using the old prison.

In 2011 the Correctional Services Commissioner Ken Middlebrook argued the Berrimah jail should be bulldozed but more recently he has said it can be used as a juvenile detention centre.

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