Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Another Side to the Story 'Force Must Be Used at Times'; While Australia Reels in Horror at Scenes like These, Former Grafton Jail Boss JOHN HEFFERNAN Says It's an Overreaction

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Another Side to the Story 'Force Must Be Used at Times'; While Australia Reels in Horror at Scenes like These, Former Grafton Jail Boss JOHN HEFFERNAN Says It's an Overreaction

Article excerpt

I DON'T think I have ever seen such an unprecedented overreaction during all my years working in the criminal justice system.

After more than 33 years working in both adult and juvenile corrections, I feel I am qualified to present an informed opinion on this situation.

The ABC Four Corners a few nights ago showed just a few seconds of edited footage which has now resulted in politicians from all over the country jumping on the bandwagon and declaring years of torture and cover-up in the management of juvenile offenders in the Northern Territory.

As evidence of this "torture", the ABC presented an image of a detainee in a chair with a hood over his head and proclaimed this is the way prisoners of war are treated, not kids.

I'm sorry, but through my experienced eyes I see a juvenile offender, who has obviously been acting out, more than likely threatening self-harm and spitting on staff, being provided time out, restrained in an approved chair, with an approved "spit hood" covering his head.

Please don't misunderstand me, I would never condone the use of excessive force and a couple of incidents shown on video would suggest that staff may have crossed the line and gone too far on those occasions.

CONTINUED PAGE 5

But that said, force must be used in certain instances within adult and juvenile correctional centres, that is a fact of life. These juveniles are not locked up for stealing lollies from the local corner store. By the time they are actually incarcerated, they have been given every possible chance by the courts.

I find it somewhat ironic that society demands of our governments and the judiciary that both adults and juveniles who commit extremely serious crimes receive the maximum penalty available.

Our politicians respond to these requests and talk tough in the process and vow to protect the community by ensuring the offenders are put behind bars for as long as possible.

Yet, when those same offenders, when incarcerated, choose to behave in the same manner that resulted in their imprisonment by kicking, punching and spitting on gaol staff, politicians want to become all self-righteous when prison staff are forced to address that behaviour within the limited means available. …

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