Footage inside Reiby not a true reflection of the centre

Inside: The hallways outside the rooms detainees at Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. Picture: Jon Reid
Inside: The hallways outside the rooms detainees at Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. Picture: Jon Reid

An incident which resulted in an officer at Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre being fined $1000, was not a reflection of the day-to-day work that occurred at the facility, the centre’s boss said.

Channel Nine recently aired a video that showed a 16-year-old boy having to be physically restrained by officers in riot gear at the centre.

The 16-year-old boy kicked out at guards and threatened to harm himself with a metal object after refusing to hand over his phone.

Two other male detainees also became involved in the fracas.

The incident occurred last year and was reported to the ombudsman by the boys.

The footage was only recently released after the NSW Professional Conduct Committee found one of the guards had used an inappropriate amount of force.

While the high, barbwire fences surrounding the centre paint an intimidating image, centre manager Leilani Tonumaipea said incidents like the one featured in the footage, were rare.

“The kids that do come here have complex issues. The staff do a great job under difficult circumstances and the use of force is a last resort,” she said.

“Every day work does not involve using force.

“A normal day sees the kids wake up, go to (the centre’s Dorchester) School and engage in a lot of programs.

“Most of the day the kids are focused on rehabilitation and school.

“The footage in the media gives the perception that that type of incident would happen here all the time.

“But the use of force is rare.”

Earlier this year the Advertiser spoke to Mrs Tonumaipea and several officers at the centre about the challenges of the job.

Despite being trained to use physical force, the centre manager said the best weapon officers were equipped with was rapport.

“Staff do get assaulted so we have to manage that risk and as a staff member you rely on the rapport and your conflict resolution skills to talk them (detainees) down,” she said.

The make-up of the centre’s residents underwent a significant change mid-last year, with girls moving into two of the three units.

The girls – aged between 10 and 21 – were moved from Juniperina Juvenile Justice Centre in Lidcombe, while the boys previously housed in those unit were transferred to Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre in St Marys.

It represented a full circle for the facility which was opened in 1973 and originally named the Mary Reiby Centre for Delinquent Girls.