Use of isolation in Youth Justice custody involves placing a child or a young person in a locked room, separate from others and away from the normal routine of the centre. Isolation is regulated by the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Act 2005. Under section 488 of the CYF Act, isolation may be authorised if:
- all other reasonable steps have been taken to prevent the person from harming themself or any other person or from damaging property, and
- the person's behaviour presents an immediate threat to his or her safety or the safety of any other person or to property (s488(2)), or
- it is in the interests of the security of the Youth Justice centre (s488(7)). This is sometimes referred to as a ‘lockdown’, where multiple young people are isolated under this provision in the interests of the security of the centre.
To support public health efforts and keep young people safe, the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 introduced a specific, time-limited power in the CYF Act to authorise the isolation of a young person in custody for the minimum time necessary in order to detect, prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases (section 600M).
Isolating a young person as a form of punishment is expressly prohibited under the CYF Act (section 487(a)).
Isolation is always authorised in accordance with relevant legislative requirements and after carefully considering human rights. Where isolation is authorised, Youth Justice continues to address young people’s developmental and health needs.
Procedures and practice requirements are in place to ensure young people’s safety while they are in isolation. Young people in isolation are placed on an appropriate level of ongoing observation and staff are required to provide young people in isolation with essential items, including drinking water; access to a toilet, food, heating, and (if isolation occurs during the night, bedding). Most isolation episodes are under two hours in duration. Additional entitlements apply to isolation related to COVID-19.
Isolation episode reporting data will be published on a quarterly basis on the DJCS website to increase public understanding of the operation of Victoria’s youth justice facilities.
Youth Justice records all instances where a young person is placed in a locked room, separate from others and from the normal routine of the centre as a distinct period of isolation. For example, where a unit of 15 young people are being rotated one hour in their room and one hour out of their room over a period of 10 hours, this equates to 15 young people multiplied by five episodes of isolation each, resulting in the recording of 75 episodes of isolation. Table 1 provides the number of isolation episodes recorded during the reporting quarter.
Table 1: Youth Justice Custodial Isolation Episodes Quarter 1, 2020-21
|Quarter July 2020 to September 2020||Isolation episodes|
|Behavioural based isolation (CYF s488(2))||498|
|Isolations based on security of the centre concerns (CYF s488(7))||7294|
|Coronavirus (COVID-19) or other infections disease related isolation (600M)||3766|
|Total isolation episodes||11558|
Please note: Isolation reporting data undergoes routine data validation and as such is subject to minor changes over time. Total numbers contained in this report may not be directly comparable to subsequently released isolation episode reporting information.