5 January: A prison riot by teenagers in Darwin has left a guard injured and caused $50,000 worth of damage to the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre. NT Police were called to the prison about 6:00pm on Sunday after the teenagers armed themselves with broken glass and poles.
The teenagers smashed windows and doors in the prison’s G-block before setting it on fire in the 40-minute rampage. The ABC understands a toaster was used to set fire to a mattress.
One of the teenagers managed to get onto the roof of the prison, but all of the group eventually surrendered after a prison unit responded.
NT Police Duty Superintendent Del Jones said no-one managed to escape in the riot. “Shortly after they set the fire they came out and surrendered,” she said. “I’d say the fire had a lot to do with it. They set a fire and it was shortly after, probably 10 minutes after the fire had been set they came out and they were apprehended.”
Superintendent Jones said the Serious Crimes Unit was investigating and the teenagers were expected to be charged.
Both Minister for Corrections Robyn Lambley and Acting Commissioner Rosanne Lague have refused interview requests from the ABC.
Ms Lague said four teenagers were involved, while police said eight took part. Ms Lague also did not describe the incident as a riot, labelling the incident a “disturbance”. “Of the six detainees in the block, only four were involved in the disturbance during which some windows and other fittings were damaged,” she said.
“An attempt was made to set fire to a mattress that was quickly doused with water and a detainee managed to get into a roof space, however the security of the block was not compromised.
“Today we are assessing the cost of the damage at Don Dale and we will be working with police to lay charges against those involved.”
The riot happened in the old Berrimah prison, which was renamed the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre after Darwin’s new prison opened in September.
G-block had been used for medium-security adult prisoners. Darwin’s old youth prison, which was also called Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre, was shut down in 2014 after an escape attempt in August.
In that escape attempt prison officers used tear gas to subdue six teenagers.