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Media Release: Enough is enough – tragedy demands urgent action to stop youth detention crisis

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 23 October 2023

The Justice Reform Initiative expresses its deep condolences to the family of Cleveland Dodd.

Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri further supports the family’s calls for immediate action and meaningful change at the inhumane Banksia Hill and Unit 18 facilities, which should, in the wake of this tragedy, be urgently closed to prevent further harm to the children being held there.

“We are heartbroken for Cleveland Dodd’s family and community, who expressed concern for his welfare in multiple settings and yet were let down by a system that failed them,” Dr Sotiri said.

“We support the family’s calls for urgent action, for answers and for justice.”

In a statement, Cleveland Dodd’s family expressed that he had not self-harmed prior to being detained in Unit 18, where he was held for a prolonged period while on remand.

Most children held at Unit 18, inside the maximum-security Casuarina adult prison, are on remand and are subjected to solitary confinement – kept in their cells for 22 hours or more per day – and rolling lockdowns while they await their day in court.

Bail applications are often, as in this case, repeatedly adjourned due, in part, to persistent administrative delays and a lack of alterative options the court can turn to in lieu of detention.

Earlier this month the Disability Royal Commission reaffirmed 10 years’ worth of overwhelming evidence that the treatment of children in youth detention was harmful and inhumane, particularly for those with complex needs, and recommended immediate change.

Dr Sotiri welcomed Premier Roger Cook’s statement that he wanted to close Unit 18, but said the government needs to act urgently to prevent further harm to children.

“We cannot accept keeping children locked in facilities we know are harming them; and we cannot accept more government inaction,” Dr Sotiri said.

“Research very clearly shows the answer to reducing incarceration, and the cycle of disadvantage and imprisonment, is not about building new 'purpose built' facilities or new prisons – it is about investing in proven community-led supports and programs that address the drivers of incarceration.”

“The Western Australia Government must urgently commit to a timeline to close the failing Unit 18 and Banksia Hill prisons and commit also to invest in evidence-based alternatives outside of the justice system that work to address disadvantage, to stop the cycle of incarceration, and to turn lives around.”

Media contact:  Pia Akerman 0412 346 746


The Initiative respectfully acknowledges and supports the current and longstanding efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reduce the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Australia and, importantly, the leadership role which Indigenous-led organisations continue to play on this issue. We also acknowledge the work of many other individuals and organisations seeking change, such as those focused on the rate of imprisonment for women, people with mental health issues, people with disability and others.

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