Kiwi teen self-harming, kept in solitary confinement in Aussie prison

The Kiwi mother of a teenager imprisoned in an Australian juvenile detention centre is condemning the treatment of her son, who's jailed inside Western Australia's only youth prison.

Kylee Douglas alleges her 18-year-old son Jason Rewiti has endured more than 300 days in an isolation unit at Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Perth, and is waiting on the findings of an investigation into the inhumane treatment of children at the corrections facility.

"Jason wants to be able to be the voice for the other boys that were mistreated. In Jason's words, he doesn't ever want any other child to have to go through that ever again," Ms Douglas told Three's The Hui.

In 2014, her 15-year-old son Jason Rewiti was charged for his involvement in an aggravated robbery in Perth. Jason was sentenced to 30 months at Banksia Hill Detention Centre - Western Australia's only youth prison.

In Australia, 84 percent of offenders under 18 years of age are sent to detention centres like this - facilities Amnesty International say offer little chance of rehabilitation and are basically jails for kids.

Tokoroa-born Ms Douglas moved across the Tasman in 2012 with her whanau, but her Australian dream of a better life has turned into a living hell.

"It's home for my children, but Australia has also shown me that nightmares aren't just when you're sleeping. They can happen for three years right in front of your eyes," Ms Douglas says.

"They are prisons, there is no doubt it. These children are being held in prisons," says lawyer Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager for Amnesty International.

Ms Douglas alleges her son, now 18 years old, has been segregated from the other children in a separate unit for more than 300 days. She says the worst of the mistreatment occurred between May and August last year, when he spent 22 hours a day locked up in a cell that's reportedly five square metres in size.

"As a mum, I will spend the rest of my life knowing I couldn't protect him from this. I feel helpless, and I feel that I'm at a dead end. Nobody cares what happened to Jason."

Ms Solonec has interviewed Jason and seen for herself the damage this has caused this young man, who has believed to have self-harmed more than a 100 times.

"I did ask if I could see his arms and he did show me the scars on his arms, so this is a child that's been crying out for help. Children self-harm when they can't take their frustrations out on anyone else, and it's easier to do it on themselves."

Banksia Hill Detention Centre has been dogged by scathing reports and has been labelled an "abject failure", with reports of assaults on staff, numerous suicide attempts and young inmates causing serious damage to the facility.

Kylee Douglas
Kylee Douglas. Photo credit: The Hui

It's been revealed that over the past 16 months an unprecedented 272 incidents of self-harming and six attempted suicides have occurred at the detention centre.

While being in isolation, Ms Douglas says Jason's been denied access to proper education and medical treatment and as a result.

"I'm worried that I will get a phone call to say that Jason died in his cell the night before. At this point that is my biggest fear and that I'll have to take my baby home and bury him," says Ms Douglas.

"There are blanket prohibitions at international law on the solitary confinement of children. It should not be happening and it should not be happening in Australia," Ms Solonec adds.

Last May, while in isolation, Jason and a number of other detainees were involved in a stand-off with staff at Banksia Hill. Even though Jason has served his original sentence, for his role in the riot Jason faces another 12 extra charges. Ms Douglas believes it's the reason for his prolonged punishment in isolation.

"What he is today, he would never have been if he hadn't been at Banksia Hill."

Banksia Hill denies Jason's claims of wrongdoing.

Its management, the Corrections Minister and the union for prison staff reject claims that young people are held in isolation - and say significant changes have been made in the past six months.

Banksia Hill refused to be interviewed or show us around their facilities. They add no detainees have been isolated in cells without access to essentials like education and medical support.

The Hui